A statewide shelter-in-place order – issued by Gov. Tate Reeves Wednesday afternoon – goes into effect at 5 p.m. Friday.
Under the order, Mississippians are to stay home unless going out for essential services, to perform essential work or to participate in some forms of recreation. The order is in effect until 8 a.m. on Monday, April 20, unless rescinded, modified or extended.
The order enforces federal guidelines of social distancing, including maintaining a 6-foot distance from others and avoiding mass gatherings. All public and private gatherings of more than 10 people in a single space at the same time are to be canceled. All places of amusement and recreation, including museums, playgrounds, movie theaters, clubs and outdoor parks are to close, but walking trails may remain open.
Individuals may leave their homes to engage in tasks “necessary to their health and safety … or to the health and safety of their family or household members,” including pets. Individuals may also leave their houses to obtain “necessary food, services and supplies … or to deliver those services or goods to those persons who are unable to or should not leave their home.”
Outdoor recreational activities are permitted. Essential travel is also permitted, but individuals are ordered to practice social distancing and “aggressive” hygiene procedures, including frequent handwashing of at least 20 seconds. Essential travel includes to and from an essential business operation, to and from residences, and travel to care for the elderly or other dependents.
Evictions within the state are suspended, and local law enforcement officers are to cease enforcement of eviction orders for the duration of the order.
All businesses and nonprofits – except for those deemed essential by the governor – are to cease operation and all activities except for minimum and necessary operations, including payroll and security. The order directs these organizations to “facilitate employees … to continue to work remotely from their residences.”
A previous executive order, Executive 1463, was issued on March 14 and broadly defines essential businesses and operations to include:
• Essential government functions, including public safety and child welfare workers.
• Essential health care operations, including hospitals and clinics, home health workers and elder care employees.
• Essential infrastructure, including utility and telecommunications workers.
• Manufacturing, including food processing and production and any products used by other essential businesses or operations.
• Agriculture and farms, including food cultivation, petroleum suppliers and forestry operation workers.
• Essential retail, including all supermarkets, convenience stores and hardware stores.
• Essential services, including trash collection and mail and shipping services.
• Media, including newspapers, television and radio.
• Education, including educators supporting public and private K-12 schools, colleges and universities.
• Financial services, including banks.
• Professional services, including legal and accounting services.
• Providers of basic necessities to economically disadvantaged populations, including food banks and homeless shelters.
• Construction and related services, including building crews, plumbers and exterminators.
• Essential services necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation and essential operations of residences and essential businesses, including building code enforcement.
• Defense Industrial Base employers, including U.S. military subcontractors.
• Vendors that provide essential services or products, including logistics.
• Religious entities, including faith-based facilities.
• Categories of workers and related industries identified by the U.S. government as critical during the COVID-19 response.
The shelter-in-place order clarifies that gyms, dance studios, tattoo parlors, spas, salons, barber shops and other similar personal care and grooming facilities are not essential and should close.
Restaurants and bars may remain open, but they are limited to drive-thru, curbside and delivery service operations.
The shelter-in-place order does not mandate a curfew, and Forrest County supervisors discussed the matter Thursday but ultimately did not issue one.
Similar executive orders have been in place in Hattiesburg and Forrest County for weeks, and the governor initially resisted calls for a statewide order.
The governor’s decision is based in part on models showing Mississippi’s cases peaking near the end of April and early May, according to a Mississippi Today report.
The statewide nonprofit news organization obtained parts of an email Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, sent Reeves early Wednesday.
In the email, she said, “Without a statewide ‘shelter in place’ starting very soon (which is proving effective elsewhere), our health system will be overwhelmed. The immediate time frame (right now) is our last inflection point in controlling COVID-19 spread in our state.”
Woodward also wrote that a statewide order “is the only additional thing we can do right now to decrease the force of the impact.”