Jason Shelton

JASON SHELTON

There is one common thing that is forefront in our minds these days. We find ourselves in unchartered territory in our efforts to respond to the COVID-19 epidemic and its spread in our country. Each of us has an individual responsibility to follow the guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus. Government has a role in this as well–an obligation and responsibility–to inform and keep citizens safe.

My role as mayor includes keeping our city as safe as possible. It is a delicate balance and requires difficult decisions that affect our quality of life, health and economy. Unprecedented measures have been put in place in our City that I hope will flatten the curve of this serious outbreak. Each day brings new developments in the crisis, and more measures will be necessary to keep our community safe. I ask everyone to please be patient, vigilant, and kind. If there is one thing that we have learned thus far, it’s that we depend heavily on each other for our livelihood. Only a few weeks into this crisis, we have discovered how truly connected we are not only locally, but globally.

I am hoping that we will receive more guidelines soon from state and federal officials for moving forward with how restaurants, businesses, daycares and public facilities should comply to help reduce the spread of infection. However, we cannot always wait for state or federal directives on what is best for the public health of our City. That being said, I have, with the input of Tupelo City Council, issued an Emergency Declaration for the City of Tupelo which outlines specific orders during the COVID-19 health crisis.

• Restaurant dining rooms are to be closed by recommendation of the Mississippi Department of Health. Restaurants may offer curbside or to-go food orders. Restaurant employees are to wear gloves. Restaurants shall be allowed to use a public sidewalk and one public parking space on a public street, if necessary, to utilize their curbside and to-go orders.

• Recreational entertainment facilities including theaters, skating rinks, bowling alleys, arcades, etc. will be closed until further notice.

• All grocery stores and large retail facilities shall adhere to CDC requirements including, but not limited to, social distancing and the wearing of gloves.

• City of Tupelo Parks will remain open, however limited by social distance requirements. Playground facilities at city parks are closed until further notice.

• Gas stations, package stores, and small retail businesses shall not allow more than 10 customers inside at one time. All employees shall wear gloves.

• All businesses in the City of Tupelo shall be allowed to erect tents, banners, and take any other reasonable steps necessary to offer curbside, carry-out, to-go, or other such services.

The situation is changing daily, and we will need to adapt any measures needed to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. My goal in putting these orders in place is to stop the spread of the disease. It is not an easy thing to do–to place restrictions on our businesses and citizens. But I trust that you understand how aggressive all of us must be for the greater good of our community and country.

We have heard it said “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” That is exactly what I have seen over the last few days. The concern, kindness and generosity of Tupeloans has once again, shined. The Tupelo/Lee Hunger Coalition with the help of churches, donors, and volunteers has organized lunch distribution so those with hunger insecurities will be fed. Our local restaurants have been helped with huge support from individuals and businesses buying gift cards to help them through this difficult economic time. I have seen families dusting off the board games and enjoying their time together, quarantined inside. I have seen videos of teachers reading to their students to stay connected with them and show their love. It is heartwarming to know that in our worst hour, we bring our very best. It’s the Tupelo Spirit, of course. Tupelo has overcome every challenge and heartbreak–tornadoes, World Wars, The Great Depression–too many others to name. And through each crisis we come together, supporting each other, and getting through it. I have no doubt that Tupelo will come through this better than ever. Thank you for doing everything you can for the safety of you, your family, and our City.

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

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