By Alyssa Schnugg
On Thursday, Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill and the Board of Aldermen echoed the words of Gov. Tate Reeves who issued a statewide shelter-in-place order Wednesday to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The message was simple and clear – stay home.
“We are asking you, until April 20, to shelter in place,” Tannehill said Thursday morning during a special called meeting that was streamed live on YouTube. “That’s strong and that’s hard and we know it’s difficult for everyone, but what we need you to understand is that the future of this community depends on it. Life and death depend on it.”
The resolution approved by the aldermen adopts the intent of Executive Order 1466 that goes into effect at 5 p.m. on Friday, requiring all Oxford citizens to shelter in place. The city further adopts the definitions of “essential” and “non-essential” businesses and functions referenced in Reeve’s order.
Both the statewide Executive Order and the resolution passed by the Oxford Board of Aldermen will remain in effect until at least April 20.
It is the third resolution passed by the Board this month dealing with stopping the spread of COVID-19. The Executive Order by Reeves only varies slightly than Oxford’s resolutions, strengthening what is already in place.
Oxford residents should only leave their homes to engage in activities or perform tasks necessary to their health and safety, or the health and safety of their family or household members and pets or the health and safety of those persons who are unable to or should not leave their home; to obtain necessary food, services or supplies or to deliver those goods or services to those cannot leave their homes; to engage in individual outdoor activity and recreation; or to go to work as businesses deemed essential.
Tannehill spent time explaining how the Executive Order and Oxford’s resolution affects local citizens.
Mentioned in the order is the suspension of evictions by landlords; however, it does not release the tenant’s responsibility to pay their rent.
“The city does not have the right to intervene on behalf of students who are returning and wanting to get out of their leases,” she said. “We can’t demand landlords compromise with tenants.”
Retail stores, not including grocery stores, hardware stores, pharmacies, gas stations and other businesses deemed essential, can no longer allow customers inside their stores.
“Nonessential businesses may not continue to offer curbside service until April 20,” Tannehill said. “They can no longer allow one or two in at a time. However, delivery service can still be provided.”
Essential and non-essential businesses are listed here.
The city will be closing the dog park, and all other city park facilities like playgrounds and tennis courts are closed. Walking trails will remain open. People can go to Pat Lamar Park to walk but must maintain a 6-foot distance from others at all times and there is no gathering allowed at pavilions or in the parks’ parking lots.
Tannehill said groups of young people driving around town in cars is also discouraged.
“We need parents to help put a stop to that,” she said.
All public pools, including those inside apartment complexes and condominium developments, are to be closed, as well as gyms.
“Community centers in those developments need to be closed,” Tannehill said. “We will be strictly enforcing that.”
Part of the resolution passed Thursday in Oxford mandates that businesses allowed to remain open must put up prominent signs at all entrances informing customers to stay 6 feet away from other customers. Businesses with existing public-address systems must regularly inform customers to stay 6 feet away from each other. Markers on floors and signage measuring 6-feet intervals should be placed at checkout lines.
Businesses with self-checkout technology should use signage to encourage cashless purchases and the use of self-checkout stations.
“We have seen people bringing kids to grocery stores, making it a family outing,” Tannehill said. “That goes against everything this resolution intends. Go by yourself and not carry a group of people in.”
Tannehill commended local businesses and their response thus far in responding to these mandates.
“Some have gone above and beyond and we so appreciate that,” he said.
The board also approved extending the local state of emergency declaration for another 30 days and approved a resolution that all full-time city employees are eligible for paid administrative leave during the current state of emergency.