Mayor Anthony Witherspoon on Tuesday issued an executive order mandating that masks be worn in public places and at outdoor gatherings.

“We have a spike all over the county of COVID-19 cases,” he said, calling the move prudent amid a surge of infections in Mississippi.

Witherspoon directed board attorney Charles Miller to draft an ordinance that could be reasonably enforced.

Residents and businesses will have until July 15 to comply, Witherspoon said.

“We’re trying to do everything we can to slow the spread of coronavirus,” he said.

Witherspoon estimated that about 1 in 85 people in Pike County have coronavirus, calculating the number of known infections compared to the county’s population.

State health officials noted Wednesday that Pike County has the 10th-highest per capita rate of infection in Mississippi.

Witherspoon noted that enforcement of the mandate would be difficult and asked the community for its cooperation.

“Why put in place an ordinance that we cannot enforce?” he asked. “I am for mandatory mask-wearing when it makes sense.”

Witherspoon said the coronavirus has impacted his family directly in addition to many of his neighbors and constituents.

“I have two family members, right now, in ICU at Southwest (Mississippi Regional Medical Center),” he said.

City officials also are seeking to procure masks to support the mandate.

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