2021 Regular Session
To: Public Health and Human Services; Rules
By: Representative Anderson (110th)
AN ACT TO CREATE THE "MISSISSIPPI MASK USAGE ACT," FOR THE PURPOSE OF REQUIRING A MASK OR FACE COVERING TO BE WORN WHILE INSIDE ALL FEDERAL, STATE, COUNTY AND MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT FACILITIES OR THE FACILITIES OF ANY POLITICAL SUBDIVISION THEREOF LOCATED WITHIN THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI; TO PRESCRIBE LEGISLATIVE FINDINGS AND INTENT; TO PROVIDE THAT FROM FEBRUARY 1, 2021, AND FOR 100 CONSECUTIVE DAYS THEREAFTER, MASKS OR FACE COVERINGS SHALL BE WORN IN THE GOVERNMENT FACILITIES AND CERTAIN PUBLIC PLACES, TO PROVIDE THAT IF A FEDERAL MASK OR FACE COVERING MANDATE IS ENACTED, IT'S REQUIREMENT SHALL BE EFFECTIVE FOR NOT MORE THAN 100 CONSECUTIVE DAYS IN THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, AND THE STATEWIDE MANDATE IS TO RUN CONCURRENT WITH THE FEDERAL MANDATE TO THE DATE OF ITS EXPIRATION OR MAY 12, 2021, WHICHEVER DATE SHOULD OCCUR EARLIEST; TO DEFINE THE TERM "PUBLIC PLACES" FOR PURPOSE OF COMPLIANCE WITH THIS ACT; TO PROVIDE EXCEPTIONS WHEN A MASK OR FACE COVERING IS NOT REQUIRED TO BE WORN; TO PRESCRIBE PENALTIES FOR VIOLATION OF THE MASK MANDATE; TO PROVIDE FOR THE AUTOMATIC REPEAL OF THIS ACT UPON THE EXPIRATION OF THE 100 CONSECUTIVE DAY MANDATE; TO BRING FORWARD SECTION 33-15-43, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, FOR THE PURPOSE OF POSSIBLE AMENDMENT; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
WHEREAS, COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets, which travel into the air when you cough, sneeze, talk, shout or sing, and can then land in the mouths or noses of people who are near you or they may breathe these droplets in; and
WHEREAS, COVID-19 pandemic control requires a multipronged application of evidence-based strategies while improving health equity: universal face mask use, physical distancing, avoiding nonessential indoor spaces, increasing testing, prompt quarantine of exposed persons, safeguarding those at increased risk for severe illness or death, protecting essential workers, postponing travel, enhancing ventilation and hand hygiene, and achieving widespread COVID-19 vaccination coverage; and
WHEREAS, masks are a simple barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets from reaching others, as studies have shown that masks reduce the spray of droplets when worn over the nose and mouth; and
WHEREAS, the consistent and correct use of face masks is a public health strategy critical to reducing respiratory transmission, particularly in light of estimates that approximately one-half of new infections are transmitted by persons who are asymptomatic hosts; and
WHEREAS, full implementation of public health prevention strategies can help preserve the functioning of essential businesses that supply food to the population, contribute to the health protection of communities and individual persons and fuel economic recovery: NOW, THEREFORE,
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. This act shall be known, and may be cited, as the "Mississippi Mask Usage Act."
SECTION 2. (1) The Legislature finds that:
(a) The widespread use of masks or face coverings by the public is essential to help slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID–19, and help prevent the transmission of such virus by individuals who do not show symptoms;
(b) The Legislature has an interest in encouraging the use of face coverings in federal and state government facilities and public places to protect the health of populations that are at a higher risk of developing severe illness from COVID–19, including:
(i) The immunocompromised;
(ii) Individuals who are sixty-five (65) years of age or older; and
(iii) Individuals living with chronic lung disease, moderate to severe asthma, serious heart conditions, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, severe obesity, or liver disease;
(c) Overwhelming scientific evidence has shown that masks or face coverings block a high portion of respiratory droplets that spread the virus that causes COVID–19;
(d) Evidence from an international cross-disciplinary review of scientific research has shown that:
(i) Using a mask or face covering in public is most effective at reducing the spread of COVID–19 when compliance is high; and
(ii) Transmission in a community is substantially lower when individuals are required to use a mask or face covering or where the use of a mask or face covering is widespread;
(e) The widespread use of masks or face coverings substantially reduces the number of fatalities, the cases of severe illness, and continued economic losses that result from transmission of the virus that causes COVID–19; and
(f) The widespread use of masks or face coverings is necessary, but not by itself sufficient, to slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID–19 and should be promoted along with regular handwashing, social distancing, testing and minimizing nonessential activities outside of the household.
(2) It is the intent of this Legislature, through the passage of this act, to reduce the community transmission of COVID-19 by requiring all persons, while within the geographical boundaries of the State of Mississippi, to consistently wear a mask or face covering in all government facilities and public places. It is further the intent of this legislation to enforce the requirement of this act to safely restore the livelihoods of Mississippians, while not ignoring the importance to protecting the most vulnerable citizens and placing the burden of unnecessary strain upon the state's healthcare system and network of hospitals.
SECTION 3. (1) (a) Beginning on February 1, 2021, and for one hundred (100) consecutive days thereafter, or upon the passage of a federal mask mandate, enacted by the United States Congress or through a Presidential Executive Order, and for one hundred (100) consecutive days thereafter, whichever shall occur earliest, every person in the State of Mississippi shall wear a mask or face covering, which covers the nose and mouth, while inside all federal, state, county and municipal government facilities or the facilities of any political subdivision thereof located within the State of Mississippi. Additionally a mask or face covering shall be worn:
(i) In all public places;
(ii) While inside a business;
(iii) In all educational facilities, public and private, from elementary to postsecondary educational institutions; and
(iv) In an outdoor public space whenever it is not possible to maintain a minimum of six (6) feet of social distancing from another person.
(b) For purposes of this section, the term "public place" means an indoor or outdoor area, whether privately or publicly owned, to which members of the general public have access by right or by invitation, expressed or implied, whether by payment of money or not. The term also means any enclosed indoor area used by the general public or serving as a place of work containing two hundred fifty (250) or more square feet of floor space, including, but not limited to:
(ii) All retail stores, lobbies and malls;
(iii) Offices, including waiting rooms, and other commercial establishments;
(iv) Public conveyances with departures, travel, and destination entirely within this state;
(v) Hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and other health care and medical facilities;
(vi) Auditoriums, theaters, concert halls and indoor arenas;
(vii) Meeting rooms;
(ix) Libraries; and
(x) Art museums.
The term does not apply to a place when used exclusively by one or more individuals for a private gathering or other personal purpose.
(2) The provisions of subsection (1) shall be strictly enforced, except as provided in the following limited instances, for:
(a) Persons who cannot wear a face covering due to a medical or behavioral condition, who have trouble breathing or are incapacitated, or whose healthcare professional has recommended that a face covering not be worn;
(b) Persons while eating or drinking;
(c) Persons in a building or engaged in an activity that utilizes or requires security surveillance or screening, and only during such times when these persons are under security surveillance or screening;
(d) Persons while giving a speech, presentation or performance for a broadcast or to an audience;
(e) Children under the age of two (2) years; and
(f) Other settings where it is not practical or feasible to wear a face covering, including, but not limited to:
(i) When obtaining or rendering goods or services (such as receipt of dental services); or
(ii) Would otherwise impede visibility to operate equipment.
(3) The statewide mask or face covering mandate required under this section shall expire on May 12, 2021. However, upon the passage of a federal mask mandate, enacted by the United States Congress or through a Presidential Executive Order, the statewide mask or face covering mandate shall run concurrently with the federal mandate, not to exceed one hundred (100) consecutive days, or whichever is set to expire earliest.
(4) A violation of this section or any rule, order or regulation issued in response to a declaration of a statewide disaster or civil emergency related to the reducing the transmission of COVID-19 shall subject the offender to the penalties prescribed under Section 33-15-43. This section shall be enforced by all state, county and local law enforcement agencies.
SECTION 4. The provisions of Section 1 through 4 of this act shall stand repealed on May 12, 2021, or the date established for the expiration of any federally enacted mask mandate, whichever is earliest.
SECTION 5. Section 33-15-43, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward as follows:
33-15-43. Any person violating any provision of this article or any rule, order, or regulation made pursuant to this article shall, upon conviction thereof, be punishable by a fine not exceeding Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00) or imprisonment for not exceeding six (6) months or both.
SECTION 6. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after its passage.