Mississippi governor: Masks recommended but not mandated

State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs holds a face mask as he speaks about the need for Mississippi residents who are 65 and older and those with preexisting conditions to receive the coronavirus vaccine during Gov. Tate Reeves' COVID-19 progress news briefing in Jackson

By EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS and LEAH WILLINGHAM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves says that as of Wednesday, he is getting rid of most mask mandates that he had imposed to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The Republican is also lifting most other restrictions, including limits on seating in restaurants.

“The governor’s office is getting out of the business of telling people what they can and cannot do,” Reeves said during a news conference Tuesday.

It has been nearly a year since Mississippi reported its first confirmed case of the coronavirus. During that time, Reeves has set varying degrees of restrictions on businesses and social gatherings. He frequently said his goal was to avoid stretching the health care system beyond its capacity — even as he repeated that he opposes government having a heavy hand in regulation.

Until now, most of Mississippi’s 82 counties had been under a mask mandate for months. Reeves said the number of people hospitalized because of the virus has decreased in recent weeks, and vaccination numbers are increasing.

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