Thursday, August 5, 2021

Oxford’s COVID-19 Resolutions Stand Despite Reeves’ New Order

By Alyssa Schnugg
News editor

On Friday, Gov. Tates Reeves issued a new executive order that allows some now-closed retail businesses to re-open Monday.

However, the new order still allows individual cities and counties to have their own resolutions on when and how to reopen as long as the resolutions are more strict than the executive order and do not impose restrictions on “essential” businesses.

This means that in Oxford, “non-essential” retail stores will remain closed Monday.

From Gov. Tate Reeves’ Executive Order 1477 signed Friday.

Oxford’s Board of Aldermen voted earlier this week to extend its Shelter-in-Place order through April 30 at which point, “non-essential” retail stores can offer curbside pickup service only.

On Thursday, the Board approved Phase 1 of its “Serving Oxford Safely: A Recovery Plan.” That plan will be put into place 14 days after the peak of the virus is over and new cases begin to decrease. If that occurs before May 11, the city will have to wait until May 11 to implement Phase 1 since it is less strict than Reeves’ “Safer at Home” executive order that expires May 11.

Other than the opening of retail stores, not much else differs between Oxford’s existing resolution and Reeves “Safer at Home” order.

Reeves’ Executive Order 1477 encourages, rather than orders, Mississippians to only travel when necessary and for older people and people with pre-existing conditions to continue to shelter-in-place. It continues to ban all social gatherings of 10 or more people and does not allow restaurants, entertainment venues and close contact businesses like salons and barbershops to open other than to offer curbside pickup and delivery.

Other “nonessential” retail stores can open, he says, but they must reduce capacity by at least 50 percent to avoid crowds. Businesses have to follow CDC and Health Department guidelines: like sending sick employees home, wearing masks, screening for symptoms, and social distancing as much as possible. Common areas where people gather will have to stay closed.

In Oxford’s Phase 1 recover plan, most businesses can 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.

In Reeves’ order Friday, those types of businesses are not yet allowed to open but can offer curbside pickup and delivery of products.

If a subsequent executive order by Reeves is signed into law by May 11 that remains more strict than the city’s plan, the Oxford Board of Aldermen will have to adjust the city’s recovery plan.