Maskless in Mississippi

by Kerry Dougherty

There’s so much news we could discuss today. But it’ll have to wait until tomorrow.

I’m here to be a little ray of Monday morning sunshine. I want to assure you that a lifetime of living as a free American can’t be wiped out by 14 months of living under the thumb of power-drunk governors.

Yes, I visited one of the Free States over the weekend. And it was exhilarating. Best of all, re-adjusting to normal was easy.

No doubt you’ve been hearing about what it’s like in states such as Florida, Texas and Tennessee. Places where governors realize that lockdowns and mask mandates have little impact on the spread of the virus and where they trust their citizens to make their own decisions about how much risk they are willing to take with their health.

Imagine that.

Unfortunately, we live in Virginia where one man — Gov. Ralph Northam — decides how many people can watch a ballgame or come to your wedding and whether you can buy an adult beverage after midnight.

One by one, friends have returned from Florida vacations this winter with more than a tan. They’re full of intoxicating stories about what it feels like to shop without a mask, go to parties or have a cocktail in a crowded bar.

I’ve been envious.

After all, we’re at a point in Virginia where everyone who wants the vaccine can get it. By all measures, the commonwealth is doing well with CPVID. It’s time to end the endless emergency orders.

Instead, Northam The Imperious warned last week that mask mandates will remain in place even after he lifts crowd size restrictions. Lucky us.

That said, let me tell you what it’s like in Mississippi where Gov. Tate Reeves removed almost all COVID restrictions, including county-imposed mask mandates, in early March:

It’s like a sweet, magnolia-scented breeze. One that you can actually smell.

I flew into Jackson Thursday night and forgot all about the new mask rules when I stopped at a convenience store near the airport for a bottle of water. Though the plate-glass windows I saw the clerk and customers, all barefaced.

Suddenly it was 2019 again. When such a sight would have been perfectly normal.

I was almost giddy as I walked through the doors.

For the next three days I was freed from the tyranny of face diapers. Imagine, if you will, going into a restaurant where you’re not only greeted by a smiling hostess but you’re able to hear the specials that night because your waiter isn’t muffled by a mask.

Best of all, diners aren’t forced to participate in pandemic theater by wearing a mask to their table, removing it to eat and putting it back on to saunter to the restroom.

Shoot, I checked into a hotel without a mask. Shopped without a mask. Sat barefaced on a sunny Saturday afternoon in a crowded baseball stadium at Ole Miss.

No one around me was wearing a mask.

Mississippi businesses, of course, are free to require face coverings but precious few did. I suspect it has something to do with wanting customers.

Yep, some people are still wearing masks in Mississippi. Who cares? It’s a free country. As long as the rest of us aren’t forced to join in.

Maybe it was my imagination, but people seemed happier in Mississippi than they are here.

Then again, maybe it was just that I could see their smiles.

Oh, and by the way, Mississippi’s infection rates, deaths and hospitalizations continue to fall. In spite of citizens being able to breathe free:

Chart of COVID cases from the Mississippi Department of Health.

This column is republished with permission from Kerry: Unemployed & Unedited.