OXFORD • Restaurants across the state have permission from the state to open their dining rooms to patrons beginning Thursday, but restaurants in the city of Oxford remain limited for now to drive-thru, curbside pickup and delivery.
The city’s Board of Aldermen voted Tuesday night to keep some restrictive measures imposed at least until Saturday, even as Gov. Tate Reeves lifts some statewide mandates.
The rules put in place by Reeves now allow restaurants to open dining rooms and serve food to customers seated there, but can only allow 50 percent of capacity inside with six feet of spacing between dining groups. Wait staff and any other employees who come into contact with customers must also wear masks.
Restaurant employees must also be screened for any fever, by the governor’s order.
Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill reminded aldermen Tuesday that municipal leaders can maintain regulations more restrictive than those imposed by the governor.
“We are allowed to be more stringent than the governor’s order, but not more lenient,” Tannehill said.
Aldermen voted 6-1 to keep dining rooms closed. Alderman Mark Huelse was the only vote against this course of action.
Current plans call for aldermen to meet again on Saturday to revisit the decision. City leaders hoped additional data on COVID-19 cases in Lafayette County could guide decision making.
“We need more information,” said Alderwoman Janice Antonow. “We are operating in the dark with this virus.”
John Currence, a well-known Oxford restaurateur, told aldermen he won’t open any of his restaurants without the consensus of the employees at each restaurant.
He also acknowledged the uncertainty that attends any decision-making right now.
“The only thing that has been certain throughout this whole thing is that everything is constantly uncertain and changing,” Currence said.
The latest numbers released by the Mississippi State Department of Health show Lafayette County had 96 known cases of COVID-19 and 3 deaths as of Tuesday evening.
Municipal leaders in Oxford allowed retail and most other types of brick-and-mortar businesses to open their doors last week, provided that all employees and customers wear face coverings.
The mayor has consistently emphasized the significance of masking
“All the doctors that we’ve spoken with have stressed that that’s important,” Tannehill said.
Oxford closed restaurant dining rooms earlier than the state of Mississippi and now joins Jackson in keeping restaurant dining rooms closed at least a little longer.
In Tupelo, restaurants can open their doors in line with the governor’s standards.
Starkville also will allow restaurants to open in line with the latest executive order by Reeves and has amended its masking regulations to exempt restaurant patrons.
Tupelo has no masking order right now, unlike Oxford and Starkville.