By Alyssa Schnugg
Gov. Tate Reeves signed a shelter-in-place order for the entire state Wednesday in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
What that order looks like isn’t much different than was Oxford and Lafayette County citizens have been doing since the city and county issued their own stay-at-home orders almost two weeks ago.
The order is set to take effect at 5 p.m. on Friday and run through April 20.
“This will not be easy for anyone, but we believe it is the right course of action,” Reeves said. “We know that there are some who still do not have a healthy fear of this virus. They are wrong, and they are risking lives if they do not take this very, very seriously.”
This morning, the Mississippi State Department of Health reported 1,073 confirmed cases the virus and 22 deaths, including 136 new cases since Tuesday, the largest single-day increase yet. In Lafayette County and Oxford, there are 15 confirmed cases and one Oxford man has died from the virus.
“We are all in danger from coast to coast. As leaders our top priority is and always will be the safety of our citizens,” Reeves said during the press conference Wednesday.
State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said during the press conference that the number of cases in nursing homes is on the rise.
“We really are still at the front of this thing but if we can use this tool to slow things down,” Dobbs said.
While he didn’t clarify which businesses are essential, he said the order points out in more detail which businesses are not considered essential, like entertainment business – movies, children’s party places, bowling alley, theaters, public parks and others. He said liquor stores “will not be closing.”
When asked about schools, Reeves said he was not ready to make an announcement in regard to whether schools will remain closed for the rest of the school year.
“Right now they’re closed through April 20, the same time period as this order,” he said. “In a week or two, we’ll start looking at where Mississippi is on the curve and make a decision then.”
Reeves spoke little about how the order will be enforced, but did say “it will be enforced.” He said that police will likely tell people to leave an area if there are more than 10 gathered. Those refusing to leave could face arrest or a fine.
This order will be enforced. It will be taken very, very seriously,” he said. “It will not be forever. We will get through this and open our state back up as soon as our health experts tell me it is wise.”
Reeves said the order is almost identical to the one he issued Tuesday for Lauderdale County.
In that order:
• Individuals are to stay at home except for the limited allowances in the executive order.
• When outside of their homes, people must follow social distancing guidelines by maintaining a 6-foot distance from others and avoid groups of 10 or more.
• Evictions are suspended, though people are still required to pay any rent or make any mortgage payments.
• All nonessential businesses are to stop all activities other than those necessary for minimum operations (e.g. payroll, health insurance, security) and enabling employees to work from home.
• Social and other non-essential gatherings in groups of more than 10 people must be canceled or rescheduled.
• Restaurants and bars may only remain open for drive-thru, curbside, and/or delivery service.
• People may leave their homes only to perform essential activities, such as caring for someone in the vulnerable population, getting food or necessary supplies, and working for essential business.
• All parks and entertainment businesses are closed, including state parks; however, walking trails will remain open.
Two weeks ago, Oxford and Lafayette County officials had already issued stay-at-home orders that included restaurants and bars can only serve food curbside or via delivery; parks are closed accept for walking trails; people are asked to not gather where there are more than 10 people; non-essential businesses are closed, and violations of the order can come with a $1,000 fine in Oxford.