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Mayor Autrey urging caution as Covid numbers continue rising

Batesville Mayor Jerry Autrey said Monday the current levels of positive coronavirus tests in the city and surrounding areas is alarming, and he is leading a push among city officials urging citizens to follow the mask mandate and restrictions on gatherings issued by Gov. Tate Reeves last month.

“I’ve been all around Batesville over the weekend and I saw so many signs in businesses that said ‘Please wear a mask,'” Autrey said. “I’m trying to get the message to those businesses and to all of us that the word please needs to come down. It should be ‘wear a mask’ for everybody until we can get these numbers back under control.”

Reeves’ current executive order places mask mandates in 54 of 82 Mississippi counties, including Panola. It also restricts gatherings to no more than 20 people indoors and 100 people outdoors when social distancing isn’t possible. It is set to expire Friday.

In a tweet Monday, Reeves is asking that residents be “extra cautious and mindful.” He tells people to avoid crowds and wear masks when around others.

Autrey said he believes C0vid-19 infections were kept down in Panola County during the summer and early fall months because citizens were more cautious and took early mask mandates more seriously.

“I think we have just relaxed too much and people have started gathering back up and not doing social distancing,” Autrey said. “This bothers me because I don’t want us to get in the shape we were early this year with rules that kept some businesses from being able to operate. We don’t need to get back to that position by any means and that’s why I’m really pushing right now for people to get control of this and it all starts by people wearing their masks and following the governor’s guidelines.”

Autrey said hasn’t heard reports of restaurants or retail businesses overcrowded to an unsafe level, but has seen many people not wearing masks and not keeping social distancing parameters. The mayor said several citizens have also called and written him complaining about the lax attitude toward face coverings among the general populace.

“I just want us to get a hold of this now before Covid gets worse in Batesville,” he said. “Families are being hurt by this and it’s something that we can help if we just will.”

Social gatherings for birthdays and anniversaries continue to be a problem, state officials said, as does some church gatherings. In Panola County, some churches have continued to offer online services only, but many are continuing with their regularly scheduled meetings, ignoring the Governor’s order to limit inside gatherings to 20 people.

At the Board of Supervisors meeting Monday at the Sardis Courthouse, the board members briefly talked about the rising numbers, but made no new recommendations or guidelines.

The latest numbers released by the Mississippi State Department of Health indicate that 2,500 Panola County positive tests have been recorded and 56 deaths have been attributed to the coronavirus.

“That’s on top of all the people who are walking around with it and don’t know it, and all the people that were asymptomatic,” said Daniel Cole, the county’s Emergency Operations manager.