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Board of Aldermen extend shelter-in-place order through April 30

Oxford residents will have to embrace quarantine life for at least a couple more weeks.

During a special meeting called on Thursday, the Board of Aldermen approved to extend the local shelter-in-place order through April 30. The extension moves it 10 more days past April 20, the date it was originally scheduled to expire.

The decision to not go beyond the end of the month was reached because the aldermen want to see what the next two weeks brings in terms of the number of COVID-19 cases reported in Mississippi.

“I’m very comfortable with us doing April 30. Personally, I’m not comfortable going beyond that at this point,” Alderman Mark Huelse said. “Not knowing what’s going to happen in the next two weeks, knowing we may have to extend in the next two weeks lets us see where our curve goes, see where our peak goes. We’ve done a good job of addressing this early, but I want to err on the side of caution.”

Mayor Robyn Tannehill said she had spoken with Dr. Jason Waller of Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi on Wednesday, who told her the supposed spike in cases in Mississippi is now expected to fall between April 17 to 21.

“(Waller said) ‘Until we have better and more widespread testing and contact tracing, effective reopening is going to be difficult,'” Tannehill said. “I think by the 30th, we’ll know what our peak looked like.”

The State Department of Health has reported 843 new COVID-19 cases in Mississippi so far this week. Lafayette County has reported nine new cases this week, bringing its total to 39 cases since March 19.

Mississippi’s shelter-in-place order also expires at 8 a.m. on April 20. Governor Tate Reeves is meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday and will make an announcement regarding the statewide order on Friday.

Tannehill said she and other City officials will begin working on a plan next week to reopen Oxford. She will meet with healthcare officials and other experts for advice on how to properly reopen the city without creating a new spike in cases once operations return to normal.

She also said there is a tentative goal for Oxford to return to normalcy by the fall with a date of Aug. 1 in mind, as of now.

Alderman Jason Bailey asked that the Board meet next week if an extension beyond April 30 looks like a possibility, so as to not wait until a couple days before the new deadline to give businesses proper time to plan and prepare.

“I think that’s a discussion that we’re having and people throughout the United States are having,” Huelse said. “What does it look like as we ease back into normalcy? It’s not going to be open a switch and just go. It’s got to ease back in and what is the right way to do that? We need our professionals to let us know what is the safe way to ease back in.”

The Board is scheduled to have its second regular meeting of the month on April 21. It was not discussed if that would be an item on that agenda or not during Thursday’s meeting.