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Oxford Leaders Pass Resolution Allowing Some Nonessential Businesses to Open Wednesday

By Alyssa Schnugg
News editor

Jane Cross prepares for the reopening of her store, Jane, in Oxford, Miss. on Tuesday, April 28, 2020.
Photo by Bruce Newman

Many of Oxford’s businesses can reopen Wednesday morning after the Oxford Board of Aldermen voted to put the city’s reopening plan in place a few days early after establishing Oxford is over the peak of new COVID-19 cases.

The new resolution approved Tuesday during a special called meeting will allow retail, officer/general business, daycares, medical and health services and pharmacies to open their doors to customers tomorrow; however, employees and customers will have to wear face coverings and business owners will have to follow several guidelines set in Phase 1 of the Serving Oxford Safely: A Recovery Plan.

The resolution adopts all findings and regulations contained in Gov. Tate Reeve’s Executive Order 1477 that went into effect on Monday.

Last week the Board approved Phase 1 of its Serving Oxford Safely: A Recovery Plan to be put into place 14 days after the peak of the virus was identified. Emergency Management Jimmy Allgood told the Board Tuesday that according to the data he’s been tracking, Oxford’s peak was April 19.

While 14 days would be May 2, most of the aldermen felt that if the city included mandating face coverings for employees and customers, like essential businesses have been doing since Saturday, that it would be safe to open Wednesday.

“Any day we can give our small business owners will be a big help,” said Alderman Mark Huelse.

Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill reads a new resolution Tuesday during a meeting at City Hall that will allow retail and some other businesses to open on Wednesday.
Screen capture/YouTube

Aldermen Janice Antonow and Preston Taylor felt the board should wait the 14 days as recommended by national health officials; however, Antonow voted in favor of opening Tuesday. Taylor was the one dissenting vote.

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.

While Reeves’ order allows cities to impose resolutions that are more strict than his, they cannot issue resolutions that are more lenient, so the Oxford Board of Aldermen could now allow those businesses to reopen until Reeves issues an order allowing them to open.

Businesses opening Wednesday must require employees and customers to wear masks or face coverings; have hand sanitizer available for employees and customers; must not allow sick employees to be at work; must keep customers 6 feet apart using markers on floors and signage measuring 6-foot intervals; enforce social distancing; clean and sanitize bathrooms and other equipment every hour.

Retail stores will only be allowed five customers per 1,000 square feet.

Mayor Robyn Tannehill said she’s received some complaints from people claiming the city didn’t have the right to mandate that people wear face coverings in businesses.

However, Tannehill read three Mississippi statutes that give the mayor and Board of Aldermen the right to issue orders necessary for the protection of life and property once the city has proclaimed a civil emergency and grants municipalities the right to make regulations to “prevent the introduction and spread of infectious diseases.


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