Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs, right, watches an unmasked Gov. Tate Reeves respond to a reporter's question during a news briefing regarding Mississippi's COVID-19 response in Jackson, Miss., Aug. 13, 2021. Reeves did not wear a face mask during the 90-minute briefing. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Governor Tate Reeves announced on Friday that he’s extending Mississippi’s state of emergency order for an additional 30 days.

About a month ago, Reeves extended the emergency order after several state officials publicly expressed concern that allowing it to expire — as he had previously announced he would do on Aug. 15 — would adversely affect several COVID-19 response and relief efforts.

READ MORE: Leaders fear what could happen if Reeves ends state of emergency on Sunday as planned

Leaving the emergency order in place is essential to keeping the COVID-19 System of Care Plan, which allows a coordinated effort by Mississippi health care leaders to direct patients to open hospital beds throughout the state. It also enables expanded access to telemedicine and the option for the use of the Mississippi National Guard, which were deployed earlier in the pandemic. 

The emergency order also allows local school boards and State agencies to provide paid leave to staff for issues related to the pandemic. 

The announcement comes as Mississippi’s COVID numbers are on a downturn after a brutal August that saw the healthcare system on the verge of collapse. Reeves said in June that he would let the emergency order expire on Aug. 15, but reversed course due to the crisis the state is facing.

Mississippi remains one of the least vaccinated states in America, though the vaccination rate has increased substantially in recent weeks due to the threat posed by the delta variant. 

Reeves has said that the coronavirus has turned “into a pandemic of the unvaccinated” but continues to oppose vaccination requirements and mask mandates.

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Will Stribling covers healthcare and breaking news for Mississippi Today.