Jason Shelton


We are in the midst of an unprecedented crisis. The Mississippi COVID-19 numbers are growing daily. We are now seeing the infected numbers rising over one hundred each day; almost two hundred, and the death toll rises as well. We must do everything we can to stop the spread of this deadly outbreak. Without a vaccine for 12 to 18 months, we are facing not just a short-term crisis but a massive ongoing challenge not only to protect the health of our citizens, but also preserve the economy–and the families, businesses and workers depending on it. The challenges we face are daunting.

There is one single thing that we all can do to stop the spread, or “flatten the curve.” It simply is this…STAY HOME. We have no cure. We have no vaccination. We have no other means to stop COVID-19 other than practicing the CDC and Mississippi State Department of Health guidelines and simply staying home.

For the next 30 to 90 days, the degree to which we can flatten the curve is our most important challenge, and we’re now seeing almost every state respond aggressively. The city of Tupelo started earlier than most of our state, but even as proactive as we tried to be, we still see the infection spreading. What we do NOW is critical in limiting the impact of the disease and saving the lives of those most vulnerable to it. We just do not have the time that we have experienced with other diseases to develop other appropriate measures and cures. Staying at home is the only option to protect us from this new and dangerous novel virus.

Aside from the obvious reason of public health to stop the spread of COVID-19, there are other serious concerns as more people become infected. Many of these victims will need to be hospitalized. North Mississippi Medical Center, one of the best medical facilities and the largest rural hospital in our country, will have difficulty accommodating a massive number of COVID-19 cases. If the number of cases isn’t kept below what NMMC can handle at any one time, they will become over powered, leading to unnecessary deaths and suffering. It is therefore imperative to avoid a very rapid rise and spike in cases. As hospital beds are needed and the medical staff stretched, others who need medical care and procedures will be at risk.

On April 1, 2020, Gov. Tate Reeves issued a shelter-in-place order, Executive Order 1466. While I have criticized the governor’s delay of action, I am grateful that finally now Mississippi has unified guidelines to help combat the spread of COVID-19 with the goal to avoid a sharp, concentrated uptick in cases that exceeds the capacity of our health care systems, in favor of a lengthier outbreak that stays within the bounds of what the system can handle–resulting in fewer people getting sick and dying overall. The latest models show that Mississippi has a higher rate of cases per population than any other state. We must take this seriously.

There has been some criticism of measures taken to close businesses, limit travel, and disrupt our lives and day-to-day activities. I can tell you without reservation that every single decision which has been made is designed to save lives–period. We know the economic impact is going to be massive, and we are going to be as proactive as possible to prepare. I, along with our City Council and Administration, will be putting a long-range plan in place to address the economic issues that we will face.

My message today is sobering and serious, and I cannot express any clearer how important it is for you and your family to stay home. Understandingly, there are those who work for essential businesses who must work. But many nonessential businesses have closed, and those who are not working must adhere to the shelter-in-place order. The city of Tupelo will enforce this order to the highest extent of the law. I am committed to protecting this community and stopping the spread of COVID-19. Thank you for doing everything in your power to help. My prayers continue for you and the city of Tupelo during these most difficult days.

JASON SHELTON is the mayor of Tupelo. Readers can contact him at jason.shelton@tupeloms.gov

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