- An eighth-grade girl died from COVID-19 on Saturday, hours after her diagnosis.
- The school she attended didn't require masks for the first few days - until cases began cropping up among students and teachers.
- The school has since reversed its mask policy but Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves is waging a campaign against them.
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A Mississippi eighth grader died on Saturday just hours after receiving a positive test for COVID-19.
The girl attended junior high school, which began on August 6, just a week before her death, the Mississippi Free Press reported.
Educators in a Facebook post described the girl as "the perfect student," saying "every teacher loved her and wanted 30 more just like her."
Students at the Smith County School District went maskless for the first three days of school after Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves decided not to impose a mandate. Then, dozens of students and employees reported testing positive for the coronavirus, and the district backtracked.
"After much consideration for the welfare of our children, Smith County Schools will require all personnel and students to wear a mask," the school district said, according to the Mississippi Free Press.
Despite the rising cases - and despite the spike in the Delta variant across the state - Reeves avoided taking any action.
On Friday, the day before the eighth grader died, Reeves at a press conference said he would not direct schools to mandate masks.
"I don't have any intention of issuing a statewide mask mandate for any category of Mississippians at this time," he said. "I don't know how I can say that differently other than the way I've said it repeatedly for a number of days and weeks and months."
Last month, Reeves criticized the updated mask guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which now recommends that even fully vaccinated people wear masks indoors to protect against the coronavirus. Reeves was adamantly against this guidance.
The "change in the CDC's mask guidance is foolish and harmful and it reeks of political panic to appear that they are in control," Reeves said. "It has nothing to do with rational science … In Mississippi, we believe in freedom."
His remarks are a complete turnaround from last year, when he quickly issued an executive order calling for students and teachers to wear masks in all public school buildings and facilities.
The order said masks were "important not only to protect oneself, but also to avoid unknowingly harming our fellow Mississippians through asymptomatic community transmission of COVID-19."