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Mayor Tannehill: First concern remains public safety

The state of Mississippi was hit with its first case of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) on Wednesday, and in the hours since, several cancellations and postponements have been announced.

The Institutes of Higher Learning announced all eight public universities will have an extended spring break until March 23. The Southeastern Conference announced all conference games are canceled until at least March 30.

For the City of Oxford, decisions have not yet been made regarding the public school systems. The Oxford School District was meeting on Thursday afternoon to discuss plans moving forward. Lafayette County School District is scheduled to meet on Saturday.

Regents School of Oxford has not made a decision regarding their classes moving forward as of Thursday around noon.

The Mississippi Department of Health recommended groups or organizations who are holding events of 250 people or more to consider cancelling them. They also recommended the same guidelines for schools, including sporting events, but did not recommend the closure of schools.

Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill sent out a community update on Thursday following the news of Ole Miss extending spring break and shifting to online instructional methods once classes resume.

“This pandemic affects our community at so many different levels,” Tannehill’s letter read. “It affects our daily life as we can’t help but be anxious about the health issues citizens might face. … Our first concern remains the public safety of our residents.”

Several large events are set to take place in Oxford beginning next week. The 17th annual Oxford Film Fest begins on March 18, and no decision has been made by organizers regarding its status as of this story being published.

The 25th Annual Double Decker Arts Festival is scheduled for April 24 and 25, but Tannehill noted any event cancellations such as Double Decker “will be considered over the coming weeks as we continue to assess the situation.”

“With the festival six weeks away we feel it will be best to monitor the situation in the coming weeks as news around COVID-19 continues to change and develop,” said Kinney Ferris, executive director for Visit Oxford.

Ole Miss Chancellor Glenn Boyce stated it is “too soon” to make a decision regarding the school’s Commencement ceremony and subsequent events on graduation weekend in May.

This is a developing story.