Forrest Co. restaurant dining rooms, bars closed; to offer takeout or delivery services

By HASKEL BURNS,

As of midnight March 21, all restaurants and bars throughout Forrest County are banned from offering any dine-in services, and are limited to providing only takeout, delivery, pickup or drive-through services as applicable until further notice.

David Hogan, who serves as president of the Forrest County Board of Supervisors, and District 4 Supervisor Rod Woullard met Saturday at the Paul B. Johnson Chancery Building to sign an executive order under Section 33-15-17(7) of the Mississippi Code of 1972, establishing those restrictions to help put a stop to the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We would like to strongly encourage the community to use curbside takeout and online delivery services whenever possible,” Hogan said. “We also want to take this opportunity to strongly urge all residents to self-isolate whenever possible.

“The coronavirus cases are steadily on the incline, and the only way to mitigate that is for all of us to exercise social distancing and self-isolation whenever possible.”

Hogan said drive-through windows will remain open, and some restaurants that previously relied mainly on dine-in patrons are working to set up curbside services as well as delivery service to certain points.

“They’re looking for points out in the county and the community where they can deliver,” he said. “I just got off the phone with Ken Strickland at Strick’s Bar-B-Q, and they are looking for areas where people can come and meet them to pick up their orders.

“And then of course, the Grubhub and Waitr services are online, so we strongly encourage any of those opportunities to help our area businesses succeed during this difficult time.”

Hogan said he believes the self-isolation and other measures taken by community members have been helping to keep down the number of coronavirus cases.

“The numbers aren’t doubling like they said every three days,” he said. “They are on the increase, and they’re going to continue to increase, they say, to mid-May or as far out as early June.

“But anything that we can do as a community – we’ve risen up before during (Hurricane) Katrina and these local tornadoes. Now is the time to take it upon ourselves as individuals to isolate ourselves as much as possible and help mitigate the number of cases.”

Woullard said the coronavirus epidemic is especially tricky because those affected can’t always see its effects, as opposed to a disaster like Hurricane Katrina.

“Until it affects you personally, people really don’t understand the impact,” he said. “But if we can get that out today, that even though people can’t see it, the danger is still there.

“And they’re going to have to take actions on themselves – the government can only do so much; it’s incumbent that they protect themselves. (Everybody) needs to help everybody around them understand that this is serious, and that they can affect someone else without them even being sick. If we take the necessary precautions, it will take care of itself, but we have to self-contain and lock ourselves away from one another.”

That includes staying away even from church, where many congregations are transitioning to online services. Woullard, who serves as pastor at Shady Grove Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, took the opportunity Saturday to speak directly to the faith community for their help in spreading the word about social distancing and isolation.

“The faith community has always been leaders in our community, and we’ve always come to them during crisis – for prayer and also leadership,” Woullard said. “I’m asking that you would be the leaders in this situation, because your parishioners are going to do what they believe and what the pastors ask them to do.

“So we’re asking that you limit the gatherings and go to faith streaming, on the website, on Facebook – however you have to do it electronically to keep people from getting together. We’re asking faith-based leaders to please lead your people away from gatherings, because by the time you realize the seriousness of it, it is too late. I know you love your people and you don’t want anything to happen to them, so please heed this warning, and help them to heed it also.”