Oxford Board of Aldermen approve additional measures to contain spread of COVID-19

After Lafayette County announced four new presumptive COVID-19 cases since Thursday, the City of Oxford met on Sunday to take additional measures in an effort to limit further spread of the virus.

The Board of Aldermen approved a “Stay at Home” resolution, declaring additional measures for the control of contagious and infectious diseases and for the protection of public health and welfare against COVID-19.

For at least the next 15 days, all non-essential businesses and business functions shall be closed to the public. Non-essential businesses include: bowling alleys, theatres, recreational facilities, tattoo parlors, barbershops, hair/beauty/nail/tanning salons, spas, gyms, convention centers, community centers and parks (except for walking trails), shopping centers, retail stores.

Retail stores that can provide and utilize curbside service will not be forced to close under the approved resolution.

The first section of the resolution also requires municipally owned convention spaces, community centers, and parks (except for walking trails) be closed to the public through at least April 6.

On Thursday, Lafayette County announced its first case of COVID-19, and during the next 48 hours received confirmation of four more cases, bringing the current total to five as of Sunday. Mississippi currently has 207 confirmed cases out of 1,321.

“We have put measures in place all along the way to try to protect our community and that’s, again, what we are doing,” Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill said. “I feel like every time I say something, within three hours it’s all changed again. … These are strict measures.”

All churches, temples and places of worship, assemblage and gatherings which include private clubs within Oxford city limits are required to adhere to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Mississippi State Department of Health’s (MSDH) guidelines and limit crowds and gatherings to no more than 10 people for the next 15 days. This applies to funerals, weddings and other social gatherings.

Essential businesses, agencies and units of government located within the City of Oxford must take measures to ensure that they comply with the CDC and MSDH recommendations and guidance and must implement safeguards to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Essential businesses that may stay open include: police stations, fire stations, garbage/sanitation, utilities, hospitals/clinics, healthcare operations, veterinarian offices, gas stations, drug stores and pharmacies, food services (grocery stores, farmers markets, food banks, convenience stores, take-out, curbside and delivery restaurants), hardware stores, security companies, businesses providing services necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation and essential operation of residents (plumbers, electricians, landscapers, HVAC services, etc..) banks, community benefit organizations on a case-by-case basis, laundromats, cemeteries and professional services which service companies and individuals who or which are essential businesses as long as they are able to operate under CDC and MSDH regulations.

While businesses are asked to close, the resolution does not give a shelter-in-place order or enact a curfew of any kind. However, the fourth section of the resolution does state the City has the authority to issue further orders as deemed necessary.

“I would prefer that people spread their trips out all over the day and evening and night, so that we don’t have crowds at places,” Tannehill said, regarding not currently enforcing a curfew. “This is not a requirement to shelter at home. This is a requirement to stay at home, except for necessary travel and things that it takes for you to daily operate.”

The same penalties voted on and approved by the Board on Wednesday also pertain to the resolution passed on Sunday. Any business or person found in violation could face up to a $1,000 fine or up to 90 days in jail.

On Saturday night, Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton enacted a shelter-in-place order, requiring all non-essential businesses to close and residents to stay home unless going out for groceries, or for medical assistance. Several towns in Mississippi enacted curfews over the weekend, including Columbus, Bruce and Houston.

In addition, the Harrison County Board of Supervisors are discussing a 14-day, 24-hour lockdown on Monday to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Lafayette County adopted a resolution on Friday, requiring all restaurants throughout the County to close their dining rooms until further notice and asking churches to limit gatherings to no more than 10 people.

The City posted a list of answers to frequently asked questions regarding the new resolution. Those can be viewed here.