Businesses adjust after Oxford Board of Aldermen reinstate mask mandate

Published 10:44 am Thursday, August 26, 2021

Oxford businesses are reverting back to many of their 2020 COVID-19 protocols after the Board of Aldermen approved its latest emergency resolution, reinstating a mask mandate.

The Board voted 4-3 in favor of approving the city’s 13th Emergency Resolution during a special called meeting on Wednesday. The vote went the same way as Tuesday’s vote went to place indoor public spaces back under a temporary mask mandate.

The Board also agreed to meet weekly to go over the latest hospital data and case numbers to consider keeping the mandate in place or revoking it. A requirement of masks was voted for due to Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi declaring an internal disaster on Tuesday.

Prior to voting, the Board went over the resolution and added and item to the list of exemptions to the mandate. If a building or business requires proof of vaccination to enter their establishment, they are exempt from requiring masks be worn.

“I appreciate the community hanging with us,” Mayor Robyn Tannehill said. “I know that there are frustrations by many and there are frustrations from this Board. …People not wearing a mask and spreading this virus at the rate that it’s being spread is not only affecting them. It’s affecting people that are having car wrecks. It’s affecting people having heart attacks. It’s affecting people who need to take their child to the (emergency room).”

The mandate went into effect at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, but many businesses around the Downtown Square already had signs in place earlier in the day requiring patrons to wear a mask.

Since early August, the End of All Music record store has asked customers to wear a mask while shopping. For a business that relies heavily on contact and touching of records that previous customers might have also touched, owner David Swider has been proactive and vigilant in keeping many protocols in place.

“At first we put up a sign that said, ‘If you’re not vaccinated please wear a mask,’ and then we made it a little more official, kind of asking everybody to wear a mask. We were not really requiring it,” Swider said. “It really alleviated having to tell everybody that walks in, ‘Hey, can you put a mask on?’ …I was very happy to see that they put the mandate in, because it just relieves so much pressure off of us.”

While expressing concern for the hospital, a worry for Aldermen Jason Bailey, John Morgan and Mark Heulse was the affect it might have on local small businesses if they were required to tell customers to put a mask on before entering.

All three voted against the resolution on Wednesday while Aldermen Rick Addy, Preston Taylor, Brian Hyneman and Kehsa Howell-Atkinson voted for it.

The Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce issued a statement to the EAGLE, expressing their appreciation for the city reinstating a mask mandate as a measure to help relieve pressure off the local healthcare system.

“The Chamber is proud of our City leaders for making this difficult decision for the citizens of our community,” the statement read. “We stand behind the Mayor and board in supporting the health and protection of our citizens, recognizing that our hospital is overwhelmed and simple steps like masks can possibly help provide much needed relief in controlling the spread of this virus. The health and public safety of our community are crucial to maintaining a strong economy for Oxford and Lafayette County.”

To view the entire resolution, visit the City of Oxford’s official website.