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Board of Aldermen approve third COVID-19 resolution in line with statewide shelter-in-place order

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves announced a shelter-in-place order for the entire state on Wednesday, and now municipalities like Oxford are amending their own COVID-19 resolutions.

During a special meeting on Thursday, the Board of Aldermen passed a third resolution declaring additional measures for the control of contagious and infectious diseases and for the safety of public health and welfare and for related purposes.

The resolution falls in line with Reeves’ executive order, which takes effect April 3 at 5 p.m. and runs through 8 a.m. on April 20. Oxford’s second resolution, which was passed during a special meeting on March 22, was set to expire on April 6.

Prior to Reeves’ proclamation, the Board announced they were going to meet on Thursday to discuss extending their “Stay at Home” resolution through April 30, to match the social distancing guideline President Donald Trump announced on March 29. Once Reeves signed his shelter-in-place order through April 20, the City opted to go with his deadline of April 20.

“We’re asking you, until April 20, to shelter-in-place and that’s strong. That’s hard,” said Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill during Thursday’s meeting. “It is difficult for everyone and we know that, but what we need you to also know is that future of our community depends on it. Life and death depends on it, and that’s not being overly dramatic. That’s exactly where we are right now.”

The City’s “Stay at Home” resolution had already mostly implemented the restrictions put in place by Reeves’ shelter-in-place order. Some new restrictions that come with the shelter-in-place order include the closures of all public tennis courts and swimming pools (including at apartment complexes) within the city limits and the closure of the dog park next to Mississippi Critterz.

Included in the new resolution is the requirement that retail stores, which are considered essential and remain open must take appropriate actions to minimize close person-to-person contact and enforce appropriate social distancing.

Guidelines for stores to follow include:

  • Prominent signs at every entrance informing customers they must stay six feet away from other customers who did not accompany them to the store
  • For businesses with existing public-public address systems, regular announcements instructing customers to stay six feet away from each other
  • Markers on floors and signage measuring six-foot intervals and instructing people where to stand in checkout lanes and other lines
  • Employees specifically tasked to enforce social distancing among customers, and employees specifically dedicated to that task in the case of large retail establishments, such as grocery stores whose publicly-accessible areas cannot be viewed all at once
  • For businesses that utilize such technology, signage encouraging cashless purchases, online ordering and pickup, and use of self-service stations

Many stores, such as Sneed’s Ace Hardware and Larson’s CashSaver, had already implemented similar guidelines inside their stores. During the meeting, Tannehill mentioned Home Depot spoke with them regarding many people coming to their store and gathering in the garden section, and felt it was becoming a place to have “family reunions.”

“So much if this depends on people doing the right thing and people being responsible,” Tannehill said. “We’re asking you not to look at that as a social outing, to go for essential items, especially until April 20.”

Evictions have been suspended throughout the state, per Reeves’ executive order, but that does not relieve individuals from paying rent or making mortgage payments. Tannehill stressed that the City of Oxford does not have the authority to suspend payments by its own power and cannot alter or amend the rights in a contract between landlords and tenant – that includes University of Mississippi students who are not returning for the spring semester and are wanting to get out of their lease.

On Thursday, the Mississippi State Department of Health reported 104 new presumptive cases of COVID-19 and four new deaths. Lafayette County reported one new case, bringing its total to 16 cases and one death as of 6 p.m. on Wednesday.