Gov. Tate Reeves launches new social distancing guidelines for 7 Miss. counties

Updated: May. 12, 2020 at 2:28 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves is launching new social distancing guidelines in seven different Mississippi counties.

Attala, Leake, Scott, Jasper, Neshoba, Newton, and Lauderdale Counties are included in the governor’s executive order signed Tuesday.

New social distancing guidelines have been issued for these counties in Mississippi.
New social distancing guidelines have been issued for these counties in Mississippi.(WLOX)

“Customers of all retail shops are required to wear face coverings in those counties," said Reeves. "And masks are required at outdoor public events like flea markets or live auctions..”

There are also specifics on how employees of all businesses in those counties should be screened each day. State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs makes this note about the areas under the new restrictions.

“In those Eastern counties, they have a significantly higher burden of disease, even than the Jackson-Metro area including surrounding counties,” explained Dobbs.

There are many food processing plants within the area of concern, but Dobbs says most of the cases under investigation are not from those employees. Local officials have expressed concerns about a lack of social distancing at gatherings. And Dobbs point this out:

“The other thing about these communities is there tends to be a lot of people working in one location and living in another," said Dobbs. "They seem to be very well in a graded and needed together in a way that it made a lot of sense to let them work together.” So, what if you don’t live in those counties? It’s not back to normal for you.

“I’m still urging you to be smart, just stay safe, to recognize that the virus is still in your community,” added Reeves.

Reeves says from a statewide perspective, they’ll continue to focus resources and testing at long term care facilities where the risks are increased.

And as a reminder the entire state is still under a Safer-at-Home order. But those over 65 are still being asked to shelter in place.

The new requirements include:

For all businesses:

  • All businesses are expected to take every step necessary to implement the regulations, orders, and guidance from the Mississippi State Department of Health and CDC to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including social distancing and encouraging sick employees to stay home.
  • All employees will be screened daily at the beginning of their shifts, including asking whether they have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the past 14 days and have they had a fever in the last 48 hours.
  • Based on their duties and responsibilities, employees who are unable to maintain at least 6 feet distance from others must wear a face covering throughout their shift, such as a face mask. Their face coverings must be cleaned or replaced daily.
  • Hand sanitizer must be provided to all employees, which can include a hand rub or soap.

For retail businesses (in addition to measures above):

  • Face coverings must be provided to all employees who come in direct contact with customers. Employees are required to wear that face covering throughout their shift and clean or replace daily.
  • All customers must wear a face covering while inside the retail business.
  • Hand sanitizer must be placed at all entrances, in or near bathrooms, and at cashier stations.
  • Retail businesses are expected to make all efforts to maintain a 6-foot distance between customers at all times.
  • Carts, baskets, and other similar surfaces touched by customers must be sanitized after each use. Other high-touch areas must be sanitized at least once every two hours.

For people out in public:

  • Everyone must wear face coverings when attending outdoor public events, such as live auctions or flea markets.
  • People must maintain a 6-foot distance between themselves and others.

Reeves has been pushing the state toward re-opening. Monday, he said its because he doesn’t want Mississippians to wake up in August with no job to return to.

He also signed an executive order extending unemployment benefits for workers affected by the pandemic.

Reeves said he expects a decision on opening casinos “sooner rather than later,” and said Memorial Day is a starting point that could make sense.

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