On Thursday, Governor Tate Reeves introduced a new mandate that he said is "likely to become" a new executive order.
Scheduled to go into effect early next week, the proposed commission imposes tighter restrictions on 13 of the state's 82 counties, one of those Sunflower.
Reeves said during the news conference that a spike in positive cases within those counties is what prompted the tighter restrictions.
"Mississippi is in a fight for our lives, COVID-19 is an ever-present threat and we're in the middle of a spike. It is putting a strain on our hospital system," Reeves said.
However, Sunflower County's two hospitals have reportedly presented no evidence that they are presently in danger of a strain.
Reeves stated that his selection was based on the counties having 200 new cases in the last 14 days or 500 cases per 1,000 residents within the same number of days. He said it was his desire that the tighter restrictions would not only have an impact on the rise in cases, but also serve as a wake-up call.
Reeves said although the virus is prevalent in every county, it is most visible in the 13 counties that he named, which also included Washington, Hines, DeSoto, Harrison, Rankin, Jackson, Grenada, Madison, Claiborne, Jefferson, Wayne and Quitman.
His announcement, which is considered by some to be controversial, puts local leaders and law enforcement in an uncommon position. Now, they have to determine how they are going to enforce Reeves' executive order because he did not specify any guidelines.
It leaves county and municipal officials with the daunting task of compelling the citizens to adhere to the governor's new restraints and enforcing the provisions, which include not only making masks mandatory in public, but limiting social gatherings to 10 or fewer inside and 20 or fewer outside.
Sunflower County Board of Supervisors President Riley Rice offered no detailed plan of action as to how it will be done, stating only that the county would follow Reeves' edict.
"We plan to abide by the Governor's executive order and also making it mandatory," he said.
Rice added, “I think most of the board agree that we should work with the citizens of Sunflower County and let them know this is a matter of life and death.”
Rice also said that he thinks the order should be enforced just like all laws are enforced.
In a June 26 meeting with several municipal leaders, District 3 Supervisor Ben Gaston suggested that Rice, as president of the supervisors' board, in concord with the mayors, reach out to the governor and ask him to impose more constrictive restraints due to the increase in positive cases.
Whether or not that happened or if that influenced the governor's decision has not been determined; however, Reeves did say in his statements on Thursday that he would not come into a local community, unless he was asked to come in by local officials.
Even though the local leaders have said they would abide by Reeves' order, the enforcement of those regulations actually falls upon county and municipal law enforcement and judges.
Sheriff James Haywood said the county lawmakers need to establish some fines and everything else so they can enforce it.
“The only thing we can do is tell people to put on the masks and break up the parties. But where are you going to put them? Because you can't arrest them because we don't want it in the jail, so what do we do?" Haywood said.
In addition, Haywood said some type of agreement with the cities would also have to be established so that his deputies could enforce it under city government.
"The problem is more in the cities than out in the county, because there are not that many business establishments out in the county,” he said.
He said they would mainly have to deal with the house parties; however, he's not looking forward to having his deputies intervene on those.
"But we're going to have to do something, probably going to get cussed out, but what else can we do?" he said.
Haywood suggested using every available media outlet to bombard the citizens with the importance of adhering to these new stipulations.
He said that with a lot of people being asymptomatic, it is extremely difficult to tell who actually has the virus.
"The person standing next to you could have it, that's how bad this is," he said.
According to the sheriff, the merchants can also be a great asset.
"If the stores don't let people come up in there without masks that would help a whole lot," Haywood said.
According to him, Sunflower County Emergency Management Director Denny Evans is planning to conduct a meeting with local law enforcement and the county's board attorney to see what can and cannot be done.
“I guess everybody's going to get together and talk about it,” he said.
Indianola Police Chief Edrick Hall commented, “We are going to support the governor.”
However, he stressed that people are not taking this virus seriously.
Hall said his initial plan is to meet with Evans and Haywood to try and hammer out the best way to handle this.
"I don't want to be 'policing' this in a sense of, where I see somebody without a mask, you try to stop them and take them to jail. It's their health, they know how important it is, we want to spend (more) time educating than trying to enforce a law," Hall said.
He also said his officers will try to lead by example.
Hall said prior to the governor's statements, he was requiring his officers to wear a mask whenever they are on duty with the exception of riding in their own patrol cars.
"We're hoping that if the citizens get a chance to see us out with our masks on, then maybe it'll be contagious and they'll begin to take it seriously."
He too said that he is not looking forward to trying to enforce those new restrictions.
Evans said that he was waiting for the governor to post his executive order on the website before holding the meeting so that he can download it and share it with the other officials.
"The only thing we really can do is follow the executive order, what's laid out in it."
He said it would be up to local officials to decide how they're going to enforce it.
Moorhead Mayor George Holland said, “That was always a concern to me, how are you going to enforce it?”
Holland said that at Wednesday night's board meeting, prior to the governor's announcement. The city's councilmen had already addressed the matter. According to him, they adopted an ordinance requiring masks in public and a 10 p.m. curfew.
“Our attorney put it together, but they are saying that we can fine up to $1,000 for not wearing masks," he said, “I think that's putting a burden on our police. It's going to make it hard for them to enforce this. If you tell someone to get off the street and they don't do it, you can't lock them up (but) I guess they can write them up, then it's up to the court."
Holland said there are still a lot of details that have to be worked out in order to enforce this, but he has spoken briefly with police Chief Fred Randle and they've determined that that is the probable best course of action.
"It's something we've got to do to try to have some kind of order,” he said.
Holland said the hope is that people will be in compliance and just make it better.
“Because we've got cases in Moorhead, I don't know how many, but I know that there's a lot,” he said.
Holland said he thinks the citizens are starting to catch on and take hold of the seriousness