By Alyssa Schnugg
Oxford businesses that do not enforce the city’s requirements for face coverings, social distancing, and other COVID-19-related mandates could be facing a 24-hour shutdown.
On Wednesday, the Oxford Board of Aldermen held a budget meeting at City Hall. Before hearing from department heads about their budgets, Emergency Management Coordinator Jimmy Allgood gave a brief update on COVID-19 and how nearby cities are implementing tougher restrictions, much like the ones Oxford has had in place since March with the adoption of its “Serving Oxford Safely – A Recovery Plan.”
On Monday, the board asked the Oxford Police Department to step up enforcement of the city’s policies.
OPD issued four citations to local businesses since Monday for noncompliance.
Allgood presented a plan to the Board that would give the city the ability to close a business that is cited for failure to comply with the COVID-19 mandates, which include properly worn face covering for employees and customers, managing social distancing inside the business, occupancy restrictions and others.
If approved, a business that is given a citation will have to immediately come under compliance and would then be allowed to remain open for the remainder of that business day; however, the next day, they would be closed for 24 hours, or one business day.
“It gives them time to get ready for shut down and it keeps our people from having to run customers out of a business and shut businesses down in a moment’s notice,” he said. “We would then post a sign on the door announcing why they were shut down, that they were not in compliance with the Serving Oxford Safely plan.”
The city of Jackson recently implemented a similar shut-down policy for its businesses that are cited for noncompliance.
Mayor Robyn Tannehill said the last thing the city wants to do is shut down businesses and hopes that if the board passes the proposed shut-down plan, that it would be a motivation for business owners and managers to make sure everyone is compliant.
“It’s a lot to ask of all these businesses but it’s the only way we’re going to stay open,” she said. “We know that it is a tricky balance to keep businesses open so people can provide for their families and protect our healthcare system from being overwhelmed. We’ve proven we can do them both if everyone follows the guidelines.”
The board agreed to consider adding the new law to its Serving Oxford Safely plan during the budget hearing scheduled for July 6 when OPD Chief Jeff McCutchen is also scheduled to give an update on the number of citations issued this week and what officers are seeing out in the field.
No official action was taken by the Board of Aldermen Wednesday on the proposed shut-down sanction.