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Reeves issues statewide stay-home order amid virus

“Every day, for the last several weeks, I have asked our health experts whether it is time for the ultimate action of a “shelter in place” order statewide. Yesterday, for the first time, we got the answer we had been anticipating. They told me we are now at the point in Mississippi’s cycle where such drastic restrictions are required. Today is the day. We are announcing a shelter-in-place order. It will go into effect on Friday at 5 p.m.”

 

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves has announced he is setting a statewide stay-at-home order to try to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

The order will take effect Friday and be in place for about two weeks.

“Every day, for the last several weeks, I have asked our health experts whether it is time for the ultimate action of a “shelter in place” order statewide. Yesterday, for the first time, we got the answer we had been anticipating. They told me we are now at the point in Mississippi’s cycle where such drastic restrictions are required. Today is the day. We are announcing a shelter-in-place order. It will go into effect on Friday at 5 p.m.,” Reeves said in comments Wednesday.

Mississippi has surpassed 1,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, according to numbers released Wednesday.

Reeves has been among the minority of governors who had not issued a statewide stay-at-home order. Despite his reticence to do so, an increasing number of Mississippi cities took it upon themselves to set tighter restrictions on people’s movements by closing fitness centers, tattoo parlors, nail salons and barber and beauty shops.

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba has issued a two-week stay-home order for residents of the state’s largest city that also takes effect Friday. It allows grocery stores, pharmacies and other essential services such as health care facilities to remain open, but it closes businesses such as nightclubs.

The Jackson suburb of Flowood has told restaurants that were still providing dine-in service to offer takeout or delivery only.

Biloxi is setting an overnight curfew, starting Thursday. Police Chief John Miller said officers were still having to break up large groups of people hanging out in the coastal city.

“They usually disperse when we ask them to,” Miller said Tuesday in a video on the city’s Facebook page.

Many of the governors who have resisted statewide stay-home orders are in Southern states. Republican Reeves issued his first stay-home order Tuesday, but for only one of Mississippi’s 82 counties. Reeves said Lauderdale County, on the state line with Alabama, had seen a recent rapid increase in positive tests for the highly contagious virus.

The state Health Department on Wednesday updated Mississippi’s confirmed coronavirus caseload to at least 1,073 people and 22 deaths.

Because testing remains limited as the outbreak grows, many people moving around their communities may not know they’ve contracted the virus until well after they’ve infected others. Most infected people experience mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks, but a fraction of people suffering more severe illnesses can require respirators to survive, and as the caseload rapidly grows, hospitals are bracing for a wave of patients.

Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes set what he calls a “safer at home” order for his coastal city, saying people have “selfishly” ignored recommendations not to congregate in large groups.

“We can choose to endure four to six weeks of debilitating hardship, or six to eight months of devastating quarantine,” Hewes said Tuesday. “While this ‘inconvenience’ has cramped our style, the sad fact is, it’s likely to start killing our friends and neighbors.”

The governor’s order for Lauderdale County began Tuesday night and lasts for two weeks. Reeves and the state epidemiologist, Dr. Paul Byers, said a nursing home there is considered a hot spot for the virus.

Reeves issued an executive order last week telling people to avoid gatherings of 10 or more and broadly defining which businesses are “essential” and can remain open. The order said restaurants can offer takeout or delivery meals but must close their dining rooms unless they’re able to keep 10 or fewer people, including staff, at least 6 feet (2 meters) apart. Reeves said it is OK for cities and counties to set tighter restrictions.

In this latest executive order, the Governor lays out the guidelines of the statewide shelter-in-place to slow the spread of COVID-19, including:

  • Individuals are to stay at home except for the limited allowances in the executive order.
  • When outside of their homes, people must follow social distancing guidelines by maintaining a 6-foot distance from others and avoid groups of 10 or more.
  • Evictions are suspended, though people are still required to pay any rent or make any mortgage payments.
  • All nonessential businesses are to stop all activities other than those necessary for minimum operations (e.g. payroll, health insurance, security) and enabling employees to work from home.
  • Social and other non-essential gatherings in groups of more than 10 people must be cancelled or rescheduled.
  • Restaurants and bars may only remain open for drive-thru, curbside, and/or delivery service.
  • People may leave their homes only to perform essential activities, such as caring for someone in the vulnerable population, getting food or necessary supplies, and working for an essential business.
  • Individual outdoor recreation is encouraged, but not group recreation or activities such as soccer or basketball games.

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