The COVID-19 epidemic has challenged us in many ways. We find ourselves in unfamiliar territory with restrictions and guidelines, quarantines, restaurant and school closings. We have never dealt with a health crisis that necessitates governmental intervention, disrupting our livelihood and day-to-day activities. We are in a difficult situation, one that is unprecedented in our lifetime. Not since the Influenza Epidemic of 1918 have we come face to face with a global pandemic. Our grandparents, even our great-grandparents, did not experience a health crisis of this magnitude. Throughout the trials and tribulations of our country, history has proven the cooperative spirit and effort that Americans displayed in times of need. Whether it be a war, The Great Depression, or 9-11, Americans have pulled together to overcome. President John F. Kennedy said “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” This is our time. This is the time that we must implement our moral compass to do the right thing for our community, our state and our country.
Each day the Mississippi Department of Health releases new information on COVID-19 cases in our state. With each report we see the cases rising. As I write this column, the cases today are reported at 663 infected and 13 deaths. I have no doubt that this number will continue to rise. The only way we can stop the spread of this virus is to limit our activities to the bare essential things needed for ourselves and our families. This means that we must stay home. Please do careful planning for each outing. It is necessary to do many things. Groceries, medicine, gasoline, and other essentials are needed, but please keep all travel to a minimum. One thing that we do know is the incubation period of COVID-19 is 14 days. This means that anyone could be a carrier and not realize. Each of us could infect unknowingly, and many who are exposed to this virus will fall very ill and sometimes die. Those with existing health conditions, as well as those over 60 years of age are especially vulnerable. It is each of our moral responsibility to do the right thing and stay home, limit contact exercising social distancing, and practice the guidelines set by the CDC and the Mississippi Department of Health.
Restrictions which alter our way of life are hard to impose because we are a democracy, a country which gives us the freedom to live how we choose. It is human nature to have temptations to bend the rules, relying on the familiar just-this-once or it-couldn’t-hurt dodge. However, bending the rules this time could have grave consequences. Our actions have the ability to affect the health of others—your family, your friends, and those living in your community. Now more than ever, what we do MATTERS. I implore everyone to think about the implications of everything that you do during this global pandemic as if your life depends on it, and it does.
Along with Tupelo City Council, our administration has tried our very best to put measures in place which will protect our City. Pursuant of the City’s Emergency Management Plan, on February 24th I issued an executive order to begin our City’s emergency response. On March 16th, I issued and executed a proclamation declaring the City of Tupelo a disaster area. In the days following, more protective measures were put into place. On March 24th, in response to the alarming rate which COVID-19 was spreading in our state, an Executive Order was issued in efforts to flatten the curve of COVID-19. These measures were thoughtfully discussed and voted unanimously by Tupelo City Council for the health and well-being of our City. It was not easy, because we knew that the economic impact would be damaging to our local businesses and economy. But with no guidelines or restrictions in place, we were certain that more people would become sick and die if we did nothing. The choice was made to save lives.
Please think carefully in the days to come about what is necessary. Please think about your every action and how it will affect you, your family and others. It will take all of us doing the right thing to flatten the curve. I will continue to pray for you and your families, and likewise ask for your prayers during this difficult time. God bless you and the City of Tupelo.
JASON SHELTON is the mayor of Tupelo. Readers can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org