Selectmen once again adopt mask ordinance

Staff Writer

The West Point Board of Selectmen called a special session to adopt a mask ordinance in light of the rising number of those infected with COVID-19.
"The Golden Triangle is taking up the issue of wearing facial coverings," Mayor Robbie Robinson, said. "The numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to climb. We have drawn up a resolution for the wearing of facial coverings when entering businesses in West Point."
Robinson said the resolution is the same as the one adopted earlier in Tupelo.
"I do not want to see us having to shut the economy of West Point down again," Robinson said. "I do not believe the city can take it."

Barry Keel, administrator of North Mississippi Medical Services in West Point, said they are working with North Mississippi Medical Services hospitals in the area to have as much information as possible about the novel coronavirus.
"We've been trying to clarify who would benefit the most by wearing masks." Keel said. "In our view the resolution adopted by Tupelo is very liberal. We are in contact with all of the NMMS hospitals, and the numbers are climbing, we are seeing an increase in our system. Here, we have 13 beds designated for COVID patients."
Keel said the facial coverings are worn to prevent the person to person spread of the virus. Adults wearing masks in public buildings has been proven to stop the disease.

"We have been dealing with the pandemic for more than 4 months," Dr. Dasai Pranjal, of North Mississippi Medical Services, said. "It spreads very quickly. Our biggest concern is with those who are asymptomatic carriers. This is why the facial coverings are important."
Prajal said they masks must be worn correctly or they are of no use.
"When you go out in public," Pranjal said. "The mask must cover the nose and mouth. It is completely useless if it is worn under the nose."
He said the cases in the North Mississippi are continuing to grow. But not just here, the numbers in Texas and Florida have continued to climb.
"It is no longer just the elderly who are becoming symptomatic," Pranjal said. "There are more cases of young people being affected, as well."
Robinson asked about the science behind wearing a facial covering in public.
"When the outbreak first started, we did not recommend wearing a mask," Pranjal said. "We know more now than we did at the beginning. We are learning more every day due to the science and research that is going into developing a vaccine."

There are those who complain they are unable to breathe while wearing a mask, it is uncomfortable, those with asthma or breathing difficulties dislike the face coverings.
"I was in surgery the other day for three hours," Pranjal said. "I was wearing the N95 mask, and yes it became hard to breathe after a while. But we wear the regular masks all the time with no issues. Those seem to be the ones that most people are wearing."
Jasper Pittman pointed out that the resolution stated that children under the age of 12 do not have to wear a mask. He asked Pranjal's opinion on the appropriate age for children.
"I believe the parent needs to make their own judgement concerning children," Pranjal said. "Age 12 is a compromise, a recommendation."
After discussion the age was lowered from 12 to six and above.

He said there are a large number of people who are asymptomatic. A large number have tested positive, but only a small number require hospitalization.
"There are people who are COVID positive who are walking around with out treatment," Pranjal said. "Our own immunity is what is fighting the virus. We haven't developed a cure yet."
There is still so much we don't know about this virus, Pranjal said. There are new facts emerging every day.

Pittman said if the ordinance is adopted, and made mandatory for face covering to be worn inside businesses, there is little way to enforce it.
"The business owner has the authority to decline entrance and service, per the mandate," Keel said. "It falls to the business owner to enforce the wearing."
Pitman said there are people who will push back as far as possible. The business owners need to know the board of selectmen are on their side in this.
"We did this before for two weeks with masks mandatory," Pittman said. "And there were still people who were not wearing them."

City Attorney, Orlando Richmond, was asked to look at the wording of the document to see if any changes would make it stronger.
"You have to decide to make it mandatory," Richmond said. "Those who enter without a mask will be asked to leave."
Richmond said this will not apply to outdoor activities. There are some places that demand a facial covering when you step out of the home.
"The language, the intent, is for mandatory compliance," Richmond said. "It says 'Y'all come on and do this.' I shop at stores that have signs that you must have one on. We are now four months into this. I don't think anyone should be shocked about having to wear a facial covering."
Pittman asked that the word recommended be changed to required in the resolution in paragraph six. William Binder asked that the word voluntary be removed from paragraph five so that it reads compliance not voluntary compliance.
"We don't want to have to twist arms," Richmond said. "Business owners can ask people to leave and take their business elsewhere. No one wants to force anyone to do this. They should because it's the right thing to do. But we should change the word may to will in paragraph eight line item two."

Ken Poole said this is a recommendation that businesses work with us on facial coverings. The board is concerned with the health of our citizens.
"We are not asleep at the wheel," Poole said. "The people who are going to wear masks are already wearing them. But those who refuse are not going to comply. I know I want to be protected and so do a lot of other people."

Jasper Pittman made the motion to accept the mandate with the changes. Leta Turner abstained from voting, Binder voted yes, Pittman voted yes, Poole voted no and Keith McBrayer voted no. There was a tie. In the event of a tie the mayor may break the tie. Robinson voted yes and the ordinance was adopted to begin Wednesday, July 8.
In other matters, the board approved unanimously the re-appointment of City Attorney, the Honorable Orlando Richmond.
Joey Wright, the Department of Public Works Director asked for the board to approve the hiring of a part-time Knuckle Boom Operator, Terry Coggins. The board unanimously approved.
The board adjourned until 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 14.