On Sept. 30, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves became the first governor in the nation to end a statewide mask mandate after COVID-19 case numbers dropped across the state of Mississippi. Regardless of Reeves' decision, the city of Starkville's mandate remains set in place for indoor, public areas.
Many residents of Oktibbeha County are questioning why the release of the mandate has not extended into their own city limits. The decision to continue abiding by a mask mandate was a safe and smart option on Mayor Lynn Spruill's part, and the decision will allow Starkville COVID-19 numbers to remain low.
Masks can be irritating and are an inconvenience to wear; however, the concern to be raised should be directed toward whether the masks are protecting the population from potential COVID-19 exposure.
According to the Mayo Clinic Staff, the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have deemed face masks a recommended inhibitor for the spread of COVID-19. The CDC also emphasized the virus's ability to spread mainly among people who are in close contact with one another, so the use of masks is particularly important in settings where people are close to each other.
COVID-19 is spread through droplet form. Therefore, when masks are involved, this keeps germs from being spread from one party to another. Masks are our shields and protect us not only from COVID-19 but also other potential illnesses we could be exposed to.
The recommendation from our national and international health organizations to use a mask during the national pandemic should be persuasive enough to make citizens want to wear a mask, but many do not see the need if they feel the population's outbreak numbers have lowered.
As of 6 p.m. on Oct. 9, 957 positive COVID-19 test results have been reported to the Mississippi State Department of Health. There are 957 people in Mississippi who still have the virus and hold the potential to spread it to different parties. While those numbers are not all necessarily located in Starkville, the potential to catch the virus still is. It just takes exposure of any of those individuals for the virus to spread and eventually make its way back to Starkville.
What if you have already had COVID-19? How does this still affect you? Kai Kupferschmidt of Science Magazine says there is a possibility an individual can obtain the virus more than once after a 33-year-old citizen of Hong Kong proved this to be true. The chances of catching the virus more than once is unlikely, but the possibility should alarm anyone for whom the virus did not bode well the first time around.
Let us not forget about the individuals who have yet to catch COVID-19. If Starkville was to discontinue the mask mandate, those citizens would be completely exposed and could easily catch COVID-19 if another outbreak were to occur. There are so many people who outwitted the virus the first go-around, and to disregard the safety of these individuals when the virus is still present almost seems careless and disrespectful.
With that being said, thank you, city of Starkville, for once again looking out for your students and citizens and for helping the town slowly build itself back up in the face of the dreadful COVID-19.