JACKSON • Gov. Tate Reeves on Thursday issued a supplement to his previous executive order attempting to clarify that municipalities and counties can enact more strict COVID-19 safety measures if they wish, as long as it does not directly conflict with his existing order.
“If any municipality wants to utilize their local emergency powers, and a lot of them do and that‘s perfectly fine,” Reeves said at a press conference on Thursday. “If they want to use their emergency powers to go beyond what that statewide order does, as long as their order is not in direct conflict with allowing for what the state order says, then it’s fine.”
On Tuesday, Reeves issued an executive order banning social gatherings of more than 10 people and offered a definition of what constitutes as an essential business. He ordered restaurants and bars statewide to close their dining rooms and limit services to takeout or delivery. However, Reeves allowed an exception to be made for dining rooms that would limit their dining capacity to 10 or fewer people.
One of the main provisions of Reeves’ supplement is clarifying that the local government’s definition of an essential business cannot be narrower or stricter than the state’s definition of an essential business.
Several cities, including Oxford, Starkville and Tupelo, passed measures closing non-essential businesses, but each had somewhat of a narrower definition of an essential business than what the state’s order lists.
Reeves’ supplement comes at a time when several municipal leaders have either asked for clarification on Reeves’ initial order or said Reeves’ intent of the order does not match up with what the order actually implements.
Tupelo officials previously approved an order that would close dining facilities inside of restaurants completely, but would allow them to also utilize takeout or curbside pickup means.
According to Reeves, municipalities which have already passed measures closing dining services completely are not in conflict with his state order and simply go beyond what the state order doesn’t address. At the Thursday press conference, he referenced the measures the city of Oxford has taken to close dining areas, and said its measure does not conflict with the state order.
Reeves’ office sent a press release out on Thursday saying that any existing local measures can remain in effect under the executive order, as long as they provide the same minimum standards established in the executive order and do not impose restrictions that would prevent essential services from operating.
Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton told the Daily Journal that he has a different interpretation of Reeves’ order and believes Reeves’ intentions for the order, but he does not think the measure is realistically doing what the governor believes or wants it to do.
“As it is written, it’s not consistent with the messaging,” Shelton said.
Shelton believes that Reeves’ order does indeed conflict with the local measure Tupelo has taken and still thinks the state order supersedes, or overrides, the local order.
“That puts the city in a position of do we go by what the executive order is supposed to mean or what it does mean,” Shelton said.
Tupelo, along with other cities in the state, also passed an order closing non-essential businesses within the city.
Despite not agreeing with the Republican governor’s analysis of his executive order and previously criticizing some of Reeves’ handling of the virus outbreak, Shelton, a Democrat, said this is not a political attack on Reeves.
“This is not a criticism of the governor, this is not an attack of the governor,” Shelton said in a Thursday video on social media. “This is the plain reading. I understand there’s going to be some clarification coming from the governor’s office, and that will be great.”
Likewise, Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill also told the Daily Journal Thursday morning she would welcome any clarifying measure that the governor would issue to his executive order because she also believed several provisions within the governor’s order conflicted with safety resolutions Starkville had passed.
For example, Spruill said Starkville also previously closed all dining facilities, but believed Reeves’ order allowing for restaurants to open dining facilities as long as they abide by the 10-person limit would supersede the city’s resolution.
“Whatever he has in writing, we will go by,” Spruill said.
Reeves’ executive order runs through April 17.