On March 2, Gov. Tate Reeves and the Oxford Board of Aldermen decided to eliminate all mask mandates and lower COVID-19 capacity limits. At 5 p.m. on the following day, people could officially enter some businesses maskless, gather in larger groups and attend sporting events at greater capacity.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say symptoms of the virus may appear between 2-14 days after exposure, but now, just over a week after the mandate removal, local COVID-19 cases have not jumped in the way that some community members expected.
The state as a whole has seen an average of 388 new cases per day since the mask mandates were lifted, which is an 8% increase compared to two weeks ago, according to data from The New York Times. Meanwhile, the city of Oxford reported 37 new cases since March 3, which is a 28.8% decrease from the week before, according to data from the city’s website; however, March 9 and 10 are not included in the data.
The university’s Oxford campus cases have also remained relatively idle. Since March 3, the university’s COVID-19 dashboard reported nine new cases among university community members. During the week prior, from Feb. 23 to March 2, the dashboard reported 14 new cases.
As a whole, the university reports 14 active confirmed cases, 11 of which are students, two are staff and one is a faculty member.
Still, UM continues to maintain mask requirements in all campus buildings, including residence halls.
“Our community has done a tremendous job of adopting and adhering to our university protocols to limit spread of the virus, and those protocols continue to work effectively,” Chancellor Glenn Boyce wrote in an email on March 3, following the city of Oxford’s decision to not require masks.
Visit Oxford, the city’s tourism office, took to social media to remind the community that state and national health officials continue to recommend masks and social distancing. The office did so shortly before the removal of mask requirements went into effect.
“Businesses will make their own decisions regarding masks and spacing. We ask you to please respect those decisions,” Visit Oxford tweeted.