Through April 20 at 8 a.m., Mississippi’s shelter-in-place order will force several restrictions, including prohibiting groups of 10 or more at social gatherings and non-essential travel and non-essential businesses ceasing operations to the public.

The order is meant to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. As of April 6, Monroe County had 16 reported positive cases and its first death. Two of the cases were reported at long-term care centers.

Along with the order comes an increased police presence and the potential of tickets for violators. Monroe County Sheriff Kevin Crook said citations could carry a fine as high as $500 and jail time as long as six months.

“If you have a party or a bonfire with 25, 30 people and we show up and ask them to leave and they don’t leave, I told our guys to start with the homeowner and start writing these tickets to anybody who wants to stay around and we’ll see them in court,” he said.

“People who are out are supposed to be getting food or medical supplies or going to work because it is a shelter-in-place, not a curfew. If you’re out and get pulled over and you don’t have anywhere you’re supposed to be, you could get a ticket just for being out and about.”

Essential travel includes going to work; seeking medical care and anything necessary for health and safety; purchasing food; caring for the elderly, minors, people with disabilities and vulnerable adults; engaging in individual outdoor recreation and activity; to and from a person’s place of residence; and anything court ordered such as custody agreements.

The Aberdeen Board of Aldermen took action to extend its executive order last week, but the governor’s shelter-in-place order supersedes it.

“What the board did was some of the non-essential businesses were allowed to stay open. Now with the governor doing the new changeover, a lot of our businesses in Aberdeen are going to have to close Friday at 5,” said Aberdeen Police Chief Henry Randle last week. “The thing that’s going to hit us the most is retail stores. Liquor stores will stay open.”

Aberdeen instituted a curfew from 10 p.m. until 4 a.m. beginning April 1, which is effective until further notice. Randle said his department wrote 15 to 20 citations the first night and an additional 40 citations Friday and Saturday night.

“It was a good night. I didn’t see any children. The sheriff’s office helped out. We welcome highway patrol, the department of wildlife and anyone who is state certified and carries a badge and a gun to team up with us,” Randle said of the first night, adding there will be an enhanced police presence during the weekends. “We’re going to try to get this pandemic stopped.”

The first offense is $100, and the second offense is $500.

Amory Police Chief Ronnie Bowen’s biggest message to the public is to follow the state and federal government’s guidelines through sheltering in place and social distancing.

“Sheltering in place is to keep us from spreading the virus. It’s about us doing our part to stay at home and out of public places and in groups. People may not know they have it and expose a friend. Nobody knows who’s carrying it,” he said.

The biggest question Crook has received deals with church services.

“From our end, we want the churches to use common sense and realize this isn’t about persecution; it’s about protection. We don’t want them to put their own church members or community in danger because they feel like they’ve got to meet in larger groups. Constitutionally, we can’t stop the church from gathering, but the governor is asking people to keep it at 10 or less,” he said.

He said several churches are conducting services online. For drive-in services, he said staying inside vehicles is fine but he urged people to stay inside their vehicles.

“If everybody could understand this is not a move towards socialism or communism, it’s just simply for safety,” Crook said.

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