Gov. Tate Reeves has added Carroll and six more counties to his mask-wearing mandate in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last week, Reeves enacted the mandate for nine counties. He announced the addition of seven more — Carroll, Harrison, Madison, Marshall, Jones, Leake and Benton — at a Monday press conference.
These counties were placed on the list because they met the governor’s criteria for additional measures — more than 500 cases per 100,000 residents over two weeks or more than 200 total cases over two weeks.
Carroll County has the sixth-highest infection rate of Mississippi’s 82 counties. For the week ending Saturday, the county averaged 5.03 new cases daily of COVID-19 per 10,000 residents, according to data tracked by the Harvard Global Health Institute and the Brown School of Public Health. That’s more than double the state average of 2.44.
According to the latest Mississippi State Department of Health figures, Carroll County has had 493 total cases.
The department reported that Carroll County’s confirmed cases of COVID-19 jumped by 103 in one day two weeks ago. Ken Strachan, Carroll County’s emergency management director, and Brandon Smith, warden of the Carroll-Montgomery County Regional Correctional Facility in Vaiden, said the surge in cases was due to an outbreak at the jail.
Smith said that on Sept. 9 and Sept. 10 the jail received 56 new inmates from the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Prior to those dates, Smith said, there were no known cases of COVID-19 that month at the all-men’s facility.
About 10 to 12 days after the new inmates arrived, some of them and some other inmates started exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, Smith said. On Oct. 6, test results revealed that 113 inmates had the virus, while the remaining 147 inmates tested negative, the warden said.
At one point last week, Carroll County had the state’s highest rate following the one-day spike. That spike, though, has been cycled out and is not reflected in the latest average.
Carroll County Board of Supervisors President Rickie Corley said he does not think the mandate will make much of a difference to those in the county. He said the COVID-19 case numbers have not been mounting in the area outside the correctional facility.
“People are already wearing the masks when they go out,” he said. “We just saw that upsurge out in the jail.”
Carroll County never enacted its own mask requirement for county residents, Corley
said, although they were covered by a statewide mandate that had been in place during August and September.
Leflore County has averaged 4.26 new cases daily per 10,000 residents, the eighth highest in the state.
Greenwood and Leflore County, though, have remained under mask mandates imposed by local governments since July.
Reeves, who lifted the statewide mandate in late September, has called for targeted mandates, saying preventive measures should be put in place where they are most needed.
He also said he will not force people to wear masks when voting in person next week but said he believes most people will choose to do so anyway.
•Contact Adam Bakst at 581-7233 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @AdamBakst_GWCW