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Mississippi governor lifts state mask mandate

Mississippi on Tuesday became the latest state to lift its mask mandate and other coronavirus restrictions, Gov. Tate Reeves (R) announced.

Effective tomorrow, Reeves said the state's current public health executive orders will be replaced by recommendations.

“Today, I signed what I expect will be one of my last executive orders regarding COVID-19. Our hospitalizations have plummeted, and our case numbers have fallen dramatically as well. In fact, our case numbers have fallen to the point where no county meets the original criteria for a mask mandate,” Reeves said during a press conference.

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The announcement in Mississippi came at the same time Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) lifted his state's mask mandate and capacity restrictions. 

The Biden administration has been urging states not to lift restrictions yet but has so far declined to call out governors by name. 

Reeves said businesses will be allowed to make their own policies but that "the governor's office is getting out of the business of telling people what they can and can't do." 

The only places where restrictions, including mask mandates, will remain in effect will be in K-12 schools, Reeves said. 

Schools in the state have been open since the first week of August. 

"I believe the most consequential debate playing out in America today is whether children should be in the classroom learning," Reeves said.

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Reeves also said indoor arenas will have a capacity limit of 50 percent.

The governor urged people to use their best judgement and said the fact that restrictions are being lifted doesn't mean COVID-19 is no longer a concern.

"There will still be COVID in our communities, perhaps for a significant amount of time in our state, and across the country. We will all need to decide for ourselves how to assess the risks and rewards of each and every activity we choose to pursue," Reeves said. 

"But the risk of overwhelming our hospitals with severe COVID cases is coming to a close and gets less and less with each and every day we see more of our vulnerable get vaccinated," he added.

State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs said new cases and deaths are still increasing and that the health department is still “strongly recommending” anyone over the age of 65 and anyone over the age of 16 with a chronic medical condition avoid social gatherings until they are able to be vaccinated.