The Oxford Board of Aldermen voted tonight to follow Gov. Tate Reeves’s latest executive order, removing mask mandates and allowing businesses to operate at full capacity starting at 5 p.m. on Wednesday.
“Municipalities can be more strict, but not more lenient, and we’ve always based that decision on numbers and data,” said Mayor Robyn Tannehill. “The state is ready to open back up.”
The only mandates to remain are the capacity limit of 50% inside indoor arenas and those that govern K-12 schools.
K-12 schools will still require a mask where social distancing is not possible.
Aldermen John Morgan said he felt Oxford has done well in managing the pandemic because it was more strict than state mandates during the first few months after the virus hit Oxford.
“But I can’t see any reason now not to follow the Governor’s order,” he said.
Emergency Management Coordinator Jimmy Allgood said there were 54 active cases currently in Oxford. He said the numbers began trending downward before the snowstorm two weeks ago and reminded the Board that there was little testing being done that week.
“So we may see a slight increase, but again, the numbers were going down before the storm,” he said.
Allgood said 15,644 Lafayette County and Oxford residents have received the vaccine at the vaccination site at the National Guard Armory.
“They’ve administered more vaccines than that, but that’s how many Lafayette County residents have received the vaccine,” he said.
Alderman Janice Antonow said she’s heard some concerns from senior citizens about having to go into grocery stores and pharmacies without a mask mandate.
Tannehill pointed out that businesses could still mandate masks if they choose to, and the suggestion was made to call local grocery stores and inquire about their plans for masks and suggest the stores offer a “mask time” for shoppers where masks would be worn by customers and employees for a selected period of time.
“We would advertise that they were willing to do this on our social media pages and website,” Tannehill said.
The Board decided to keep curbside parking spaces available on the Square and outdoor dining going until the end of the month and revisit those discussions at their next board meeting.
Also on Tuesday after Reeves’ announcement, University of Mississippi Athletics Director Keith Carter released a statement attributing the dedication and hard work of the area’s first responders and medical community in the progress against COVID-19.
“We also appreciate the students, faculty and staff for their compliance with protocols that have helped protect the health and safety of our campus during the pandemic. Today’s announcement is an exciting step forward for our state and country,” Carter said.
“The past year has provided our department a tremendous learning experience for hosting events in a safe manner, and those best practices will help guide our actions as we ramp up our operation to host increased crowds. Our staff is working with the Southeastern Conference and other entities to establish an attendance plan that optimizes capacity while navigating safety concerns. There will be correspondence in the hours and days ahead about tickets and fan policies for the games later this week and moving forward. We ask for your patience as we process these new executive orders and adapt our gameday procedures as quickly as possible.”