Gov. Tate Reeves extended his shelter-in-place order by one week, but also announced the opening of the state’s beaches and lakes, and made allowances for “non-essential” businesses to make curbside, drive-thru or delivery sales. Photo courtesy State of Mississippi
Gov. Tate Reeves extended the shelter-in-place order he issued at the end of March for another week today, while making allowances for limited operations at “non-essential” businesses and opening the state’s beaches and lakes starting Monday.
“I know we cannot stay in this position for much longer, but we are still in the eye of the storm,” Reeves said at a Friday morning press conference. “We’re going to take more time to study the guidances, and make sure they make sense.”
“We’re also starting to ease the breaks on certain small businesses.” Reeves said. He explained that the new changes to his order would allow drive-thru, delivery or curbside sales by “non-essential” businesses, including for example florists and salons, which he said could sell grooming supplies.
Reeves acknowledged the need for continued social distancing far beyond the confines of his initial shelter-in-place order, which began April 3 and will now end on April 27, while expressing fear of limiting business operations for much longer. “I have a fundamental problem with the government making it illegal for people to fend for themselves in a crisis like this,” Reeves said.
Groups of 10 Allowed on Beaches, Lakeside Gatherings
Reeves also announced the opening of the state’s lakes and beaches, which he said state authorities assured him they could properly police. Social-distancing rules still apply to beach and lakeside gatherings, which the state now allows “as long as they're having less than 10 people in any one group, and as long as they are staying 6 feet apart.”
However, Reeves made it clear that local jurisdictions still possess the authority to keep beaches closed if they believe they could not properly police them. “They continue to have the authority to shut those down if that is something that they (feel is) necessary, or if they believe that they don't have adequate resources to police them,” he said.
The governor stressed that it was his decision, not President Trump’s, to start reopening the state of Mississippi, even as his plan to end the state’s shelter-in-place order falls roughly in line with Trump’s three-part plan to reopen America, released yesterday to U.S. governors.
“I have real questions about this uniform national approach,” Reeves said today in his press briefing. “The president even encouraged me just yesterday to open up as soon as we felt safe. I made a vow to protect the people of Mississippi. I have to do what the best information and wisdom tells me to do. Right now it tells me to ask for one more week.”
169 New COVID-19 Cases and 11 More Deaths
Reeves says after another week, Mississippi will be past its peak use of health-care resources. State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs joined the governor, concurring with his assessment of the state’s COVID-19 crisis and providing an update on the spread of COVID-19 in Mississippi.
Through Dobbs, MSDH announced 169 new cases as of April 16, bringing the state total to 3,793. MSDH recorded 11 additional deaths yesterday; 140 Mississippians have died from COVID-19-related causes so far.
Dobbs told the press that county-by-county ethnic data, which the Jackson Free Press has requested for weeks, will be available starting today. He urged individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 to contact the Red Cross, explaining that plasma therapy derived from individuals who have beaten the virus may prove useful in the treatment of future patients of the disease.
Asked how the State planned to prevent a resurgence in cases after the end of shelter-in-place, Dobbs told the Jackson Free Press that additional support was forthcoming. “We are going to be adding antibody testing in our lab,” the state health officer said, acknowledging that it had a “unique role” in determining resistant populations post-infection.
Reeves: No Input from ‘Union Bosses’
Additionally, Dobbs signaled a return to the county-by-county focus that preceded the statewide shelter-in-place order. “We’re looking at specific metrics of new infections by county,” he said, comparing the approach to using a scalpel, rather than a hammer.
While “we do strongly recommend people wear masks in public,” Dobbs said, legal requirements for Mississippians to wear masks may be difficult to enforce, especially considering limited access to mask supplies.
The Jackson Free Press asked Reeves how he planned to seek the input of Mississippi’s workers if, as The Clarion-Ledger first reported, “none of the 17 people on the ‘Restart Mississippi’ task force are from organized labor or direct representatives of Mississippi workers.” Reeves expressed confidence in his team and firmly rejected the value of organized labor.
“We don’t need union bosses to tell us how to tell us how to take care of our people,” the governor said. “We never have and we never will.”
State intern Julian Mills contributed to this report.
Read the JFP’s coverage of COVID-19 at jacksonfreepress.com/covid19. Get more details on preventive measures here. Read about announced closings and delays in Mississippi here. Read MEMA’s advice for a COVID-19 preparedness kit here.
Email information about closings and other vital related logistical details to [email protected].
Email state reporter Nick Judin, who is covering COVID-19 in Mississippi, at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @nickjudin. Seyma Bayram is covering the outbreak inside the capital city and in the criminal-justice system. Email her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @seymabayram0.