TUPELO • Gov. Tate Reeves has signed an executive order that will impose a shelter-in-place order on the state of Mississippi beginning Friday, as part of an ongoing effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
“This will not be easy for anyone, but we believe it is the right course of action,” Reeves said.
In reversing course from his previous stance that only targeted shelter orders would be issued, the first-term governor cited the advice of the State Health Department.
“We believe this is the right tool at the right time to save lives,” Reeves said.
State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs said that a continuing spike of COVID-19 cases could severely strain healthcare resources. He said a slower rate of transmission can buy hospitals much needed time.
“The purpose of a shelter in place order, it’s to slow things down to give the system time to get extra capacity to deal with additional demand,” Dobbs said.
The order issued by the governor will require that all residents stay at home except for the following allowances:
• Employees of essential businesses may continue to work and to travel to work.
• People may leave their homes to perform other essential activities, including the purchase of food and other needed supplies and providing care to others who are vulnerable.
• Individuals may leave the home for outdoor recreation, but no group activities are allowed.
• When outside the home, individuals must observe social distancing guidelines. These include maintaining a distance of six feet from others and avoiding groups of more than 10 people.
Under the order, all non-essential businesses in the state must close, except for minimum operations, such as processing payroll.
Restaurants and bars may only remain open for drive-thru, curbside, and/or delivery service.
In a previous executive order, Reeves defined essential businesses broadly, including the healthcare sector, grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations, the banking and finance sectors, pharmacies, automotive repair shops and others.
Non-essential businesses are explicitly defined in the newest order to include gyms, dance studios, tattoo parlors, salons, barber shops and clubs.
The order went into force at 5 p.m. on Friday, April 3 and will remain in force until 8 a.m. Monday, April 20.
Reeves said law enforcement in the state will enforce the shelter-in-place order as needed, but the governor called on Mississippians to voluntarily comply with the latest orders.
“The single best mechanism for enforcement is for individuals to enforce it themselves,” Reeves said.
In Northeast Mississippi, Tupelo had already issued a shelter-in-place order effective on March 22, so little will change within the region’s largest city. Other regional cities, including Oxford and Starkville, had curtailed business activities but stopped short of a full shelter-in-place order.
Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton has been critical of Reeves for not issuing a statewide shelter-in-place order, but Shelton applauded the governor’s actions on Wednesday.
“Thank you Governor (Tate Reeves) for taking decisive and uniform statewide action to save lives in Mississippi!!” Shelton wrote on Twitter. “Tupelo will enforce the same mandate without exception.”
Mississippi’s total of known COVID-19 cases surpassed 1,000 on Wednesday, with the State Health Department reporting 136 new presumptive cases and two deaths.
The state total of known cases is now 1,073, with all but five of Mississippi’s 82 counties reporting cases. There have been 22 deaths.
In Northeast Mississippi, Tippah County has the most identified cases at 28. As of Wednesday, the other leading counties in the region were Lee with 25 cases, Oktibbeha at 18, and Lafayette and Marshall, each with 15.
Just outside the region, DeSoto County remains has one of the highest total cases counts, with 94 known cases.
The Health Department also reports that it is investigating outbreaks in longterm care facilities, like nursing homes, in the following counties: Amite, Bolivar, Jackson, Lauderdale, Smith, Tunica and Warren.