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Oxford Mandates Masks for Employees; Inside City Buildings

The Oxford Board of Aldermen decided not to implement a city-wide mask mandate Thursday but rather voted to require masks for city employees and the public when they are inside city-owned buildings.

The Board called a special meeting Thursday afternoon to discuss COVID-19 data and any potential guidelines.

“To say we are concerned about the recent spike in Covid cases across our state would certainly be an understatement,” said Mayor Robyn Tannehill at the start of the meeting.

Emergency Management Coordinator Jimmy Allgood presented numbers from the Mississippi State Department of Health to the Board that included today’s number of cases statewide – 4,412 and Lafayette County’s increase of 37 new cases.

“From July 15 to Aug. 11, 98 percent of these new cases have been unvaccinated people,” he said. “Only 2 percent were crossover in those vaccinated.”

Tannehill said the Board has made it its goal to make decisions based on data and hospital capacity.

“Our hospital is completely full. Our ICU is completely full,” she said. “We have said that maintaining our hospital so beds are available when people have car accidents, or heart attacks or go into labor should be the driving force with our decisions. Our goal is to protect our hospital.”

Tannehill asked the Board to consider mandating that city employees wear masks while indoors – whether they are vaccinated or not – and to require everyone to wear a mask when entering city facilities.

Alderman Brian Hyneman suggested implementing a city-wide mask mandate for the next two weeks and then look at the data.

Tannehill replied that when the Board put in the mask mandates when COVID-19 first hit, there weren’t vaccinations available and now that there, she believes it should be up to local business owners to “do the right thing.”

“We said then when a vaccination became readily available, our goal was to let our citizens make those decisions themselves,” she said, and then added that masks have become political and putting in a city-wide mandate again could further divide the community.

“I know that each person will determine themselves whether vaccination is right for them,” she said. “Vaccination is the weapon we have against this virus. Wearing masks is critically important right now. The fact that I believe a city-wide mask mandate is not the right move is not a reflection of me not thinking that masks are one of our best weapons against it.”

The Board voted to approve Tannehill’s recommendations.

The mask requirement inside city buildings includes the Oxford Park Commission and anyone inside the activity center participating in indoor activities.

Allgood also announced that the city is working with the MSDH to provide pop-up, free vaccination sites on the Square once a week on Fridays before home football games.

Tannehill said MSDH will be setting up a site in Oxford to provide free COVID-19 testing; however, she said the site and dates have not been finalized.

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