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Masks Mandatory at Essential Businesses Starting Saturday in Oxford

By Alyssa Schnugg
News editor

Starting Saturday, anyone shopping at businesses that are currently opened – like grocery stores and hardware stores will need to wear a mask of some kind or face not being admitted into those stores.

Stores allowing people to enter without face-coverings could face a citation.

On Thursday, the Oxford Board of Aldermen met for more than three hours to discuss various COVID-19-related topics, all aimed at lowering cases and getting the town back open by August.

The board passed its fourth resolution that mimics the Shelter-in-Place resolution currently in effect; however, it allows nonessential retail stores to re-open and offer curbside pick-up services only starting at 8 a.m. on April 30.

In an effort to reduce the number of new coronavirus cases as quickly as possible, part of the fourth resolution includes requiring all essential business employees to properly wear masks or face coverings – meaning they must cover the nose and mouth – and requiring essential businesses to deny entry to any customer – 6 years old and up – who is not wearing a face-covering properly.

Masks or face-coverings can be paper masks, cloth masks, homemade masks, bandanas — anything that can be secured to cover the nose and mouth.

If the business fails to do either, the manager on duty could be issued a citation and made to appear in court and face a fine up to $1,000.

Mayor Robyn Tannehill and some aldermen wanted to start the requirement immediately; however, other aldermen suggested it would be wise to give businesses a few days to prepare.

Tannehill said every physician she has spoken to personally, along with the CDC and the Department of Homeland Security recommends masks or face coverings when in public to help prevent the spread of the virus.

Alderman Janice Antonow said wearing the masks helps to protect people from passing the virus to others.

“Some people say, ‘Well, I don’t care if I get it. I don’t want to wear one,’” she said Thursday. “If you don’t have a face covering, you’re violating my rights.”

Tannehill said by being irresponsible now will only hurt Oxford and its economy in the future.

“We know getting this town open by the fall is vital to the economy of this town,” she said.

The city has been recommending citizens to use masks and practice social distancing.

“And yet, I went to the grocery store and I’m the only in the aisle wearing a mask,” she said. “Although we’ve been encouraging it, people aren’t doing it. In fact, I see fewer people wearing them now than when this first started. How do we get people to care enough to do it?”

The resolution runs through May 18. The board can later vote to extend it until when the Recovery Plan gets put into place.

All other aspects of the resolution currently in place will remain as is until the city implements the first phase of its “Serving Oxford Safely: A Recovery Plan,” also approved Thursday. That plan will be put into place 14 days after the peak of the virus is over and new cases begin to decrease.

Determining when the peak will be data-driven, Tannehill said, and not based on assumptions or gut feelings.

Emergency Management Coordinator Jimmy Allgood is charting active cases and back out cases that are more than 14 days since testing positive. The Mississippi State Department of Health reported 81 cases in Lafayette County on Thursday. After removing older cases, there are 45 active cases currently in the county.

However, new cases have not yet slowed down with 11 new cases reported Thursday since Wednesday.

After the steady decline of new cases is seen, the city can then determine the peak and then Phase 1 of the recovery plan will be put into place.

The plan will allow most businesses to reopen but with strict guidelines including mandatory masks and gloves being worn, having hand sanitizer available for customers; not allowing sick employees to be at work; keeping customers 6 feet apart and cleaning and sanitizing bathrooms and other equipment every hour.

Retail stores will only be allowed five customers per 1,000 square feet. Restaurants will have to keep tables six feet apart unless divided by a wall or backdrop, and no more than six people can be at one table.

Tattoo parlors, hair and nail salons and barbershops will be allowed to reopen in Phase 1, but also with strict guidelines — keeping customers separated and not sitting in waiting areas together.

Gyms can open only with one trainer per client by appointment only.

Places of entertainment, like movie theaters, bowling alleys, event venues, will remain closed until Phase 2 or later phases of the plan.

Basketball and tennis courts will be able to be used in Phase 1 but only two people at a time. Walking trails remain open. Other facilities will be open in subsequent phases.

The entire plan will be available to view on the city’s website with updated changes on Friday.

The Board of Aldermen meeting can be viewed here.


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