By Alyssa Schnugg
The Oxford Board of Aldermen updated its face-covering ordinance Tuesday to include requiring masks outdoors in locations or situations where people are reasonably expected to pass within 6 feet of each other.
There is already a mandate to wear masks inside retails stores and while walking into or out of restaurants. However, with the number of cases in Oxford climbing, the board decided to update the city’s requirements to include wearing masks outdoors, especially when waiting in lines at stores or restaurants, or during community events where the public is gathered.
Some of the aldermen didn’t want a broad statement such as mandating masks outdoor and had concerns about mandating people to wear a mask while doing tasks such as walking alone down a sidewalk or pumping gas where no one else is around.
City Attorney Pope Mallette offered the wording “where people are reasonably expected to pass within 6 feet.”
Alderman Jason Bailey made the motion to approve the updated mandate adding “unless less restrictive than the governor’s recent executive order,” approved earlier Tuesday by Gov. Tate Reeves.
“We’re doing this so we can keep our business open,” Bailey said.
Reeves announced a statewide mask order during his press conference at about 2:45 p.m. Most of the Board of Aldermen had not read the actual order prior to their 5 p.m. meeting.
According to the new Executive Order released at about 5:30 p.m. by Gov. Tate Reeves office, all Mississippians are required to “wear a mask when in public, with exceptions including for children under 6 years old, those who cannot cover their face for medical or behavioral conditions, and those at religious worship. Going into effect Wednesday morning, Mississippians must wear a mask when they’re inside a business, school, or any place open to the public, or when at an outdoor public space where social distancing is not possible.”
City and county governments can pass mandates that are more strict than the governor’s but not ones that are more lenient.
Reeves’ mandate and the city’s updated requirements are set to go into effect at 8 a.m. Wednesday and last for at least two weeks.
Also approved Tuesday by the Board of Aldermen, masks must be worn by fans once inside mTrade Park during tournaments, and players and coaches must wear them while in the dugout. Players do not need to wear them while on the field.
Aldermen Janice Antonow said while it might be hard to enforce the outdoor mask mandate, even if it helps reduce the number of cases of COVID-19 in Oxford 50 percent, it will be worth it.
“Most people will comply,” she said. “We have to chip away at this. We’re not going to get 100 percent compliance.”
Alderman Rick Addy said that businesses where long lines form need to be more proactive in handling their lines.
“They need to say, ‘You’re in line, you’re standing out here, social distance or put a mask on,’” Addy said.