TUPELO • State, county and city officials have each issued different orders and resolutions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. With different orders coming from the state and local government, the Daily Journal wants to break down what measures are still in place or have been changed since they were first introduced.
After local governments had already issued several safety restrictions, Gov. Tate Reeves issued an executive order on March 24 addressing five main things. The first-term Republican governor later clarified that the following items were not meant to supersede, or override, any local order, but they were meant to act as a base-level. All of the items below would be in effect until April 17.
- Mississippi residents cannot gather in social groups of 10 or more people.
- Restaurants must close their dining facilities unless they can arrange their dining capacity to allow no more than 10 people, including employees, inside the facility at one time. However, restaurants can provide services through delivery, drive-thru, curbside or takeout means. Some cities previously closed dining rooms altogether, and some local government leaders believed this item superseded their local order. Reeves later clarified through a supplemental order that this was not the intent of the statewide order and local governments can close dining facilities, if they wish, as long as curbside, or a similar measure, is allowed.
- Mississippians cannot visit hospitals, nursing homes or long-term care facilities unless providing essential care or to visit someone receiving immediate end-of-life care.
- Businesses are encouraged to allow employees to work from home as much as possible.
- Reeves issued a definition of an essential business to give guidance to city and county governments at the local level. Several local governments – including Oxford, Starkville and Tupelo – had already issued local measures closing non-essential businesses, but Reeves’ order gave a more broad definition of essential businesses. Reeves’ order does state that local governments cannot issue a more restrictive definition of essential businesses than his state order. Essential businesses would not be subject to the 10-person limit, but are encouraged to try and adhere to all CDC and state health department safety guidelines. Reeves’ order also stated that local governments cannot issue any local order that would affect an essential business from operating efficiently.
Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton has issued several local safety measures. Under state law and the city’s form of government, Shelton has the authority to issue executive orders until the City Council meets, but the Council has ratified, or formally approved, most of Shelton’s orders. After the governor’s order, Shelton issued a new order that listed where, from his perspective, the governor’s order superseded his local order. Even though the governor said his intention was not to supersede a local order, Shelton still brought the local order “into compliance” with the governor’s order. The orders are in effect until April 17.
- All Tupelo residents are ordered to shelter in place, or remain in their homes unless conducting essential tasks or traveling to an essential job. Examples of an essential task are buying groceries or getting gasoline. Even though Reeves issued a statewide order, this order was never in direct conflict with the governor’s order and was still in effect. However, when the governor issued a more broad definition of essential businesses, it allowed more people to travel to and from work and conduct business. This order is not a curfew.
- All non-essential businesses are closed in the city. Shelton initially had a narrower definition of essential businesses than the state’s definition. The governor later issued an order outlining a more broad view of essential businesses, which caused the city to amend its definition.
- Citizens must follow all COVID-19 safety guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and the Mississippi State Health Department, which includes social distancing and not gathering in groups of 10 or more. Essential businesses are still required to follow certain CDC guidelines, but are not subject to the 10-person limit.
- Landlords or other people or organizations cannot evict or foreclose on anyone for nonpayment issues during this time. Also, utility suspensions are temporarily halted.
- Restaurants must close dining facilities unless they can arrange their facilities to comply with CDC guidelines and have, including employees, no more than 10 people in the dining room at one time. The original local order closed dining rooms completely. The governor’s order allowed dining rooms to open if they can comply with the 10-person limit. Even though Reeves said his intent was not to supersede any local order relating to this item, city leaders thought the governor’s order superseded their local order. Thus, the city merged its order with the governor’s order. Even though Reeves said local governments can ban dining facilities completely, city leaders said they, as of right now, will allow restaurants to open dining facilities as long as they comply with the 10-person limit to avoid confusion and be consistent.
- Hotels cannot serve breakfast buffets to overnight guests.
- All athletic activities sponsored by the city’s parks and recreation department are temporarily cancelled.
The Lee County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution at an emergency meeting on March 23 that recommends county citizens comply with all of the COVID-19 safety measures enacted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The county’s measure does not mandate, order or force residents to do anything.
District 5 Supervisor Tommie Lee Ivy told the Daily Journal that he believes every city in the county should issue its own safety measures and believed county residents would be more receptive to restrictive measures if they were asked to do something instead of ordered to do something. The board intends for the county resolution to be in place until a state of emergency no longer exists within the county.
This article contains the most up-to-date information as of Monday evening. Due to the rapidly changing situation of the virus, it is possible that the Daily Journal omitted new information since the time of publication. If there are any concerns or inconsistencies, please feel free to email the author at the email address listed below.