Mississippi will enter the next stage of reopening the economy on Monday as all businesses will be allowed to resume in-person service under the state department of health guidance.
Governor Tate Reeves has issued a Safe Return order which will replace the existing Safer at Home order beginning June 1 at 8:00 a.m. It will allow for businesses like movie theaters and arcades to reopen.
The new order will allow for socially distant gatherings of up to 50 people indoors and up to 100 people outdoors. "For example, if you are having a baseball tournament, you can have up to 100 around the ballfield," said Reeves. When areas can not follow social distancing, gatherings will be limited to 20 indoors and 50 outdoors.
Additionally, the new order allows normal medical procedures to return, but hospitals must reserve 25% of their space for COVID-19 patients. Schools will be allowed to open buildings for distance learning. The order will expire on June 15, and Reeves says he will continue to monitor for a resurgence of the Coronavirus. If there is one, the state could return to more strict measures.
Reeves says this does not mean the threat is gone. He says COVID 19 is a deadly enemy that is still around. “We live in a dangerous time and it is up to all of us to protect ourselves and to protect our loved ones. There are no perfect options, but freedom with risk is better than a prolonged shutdown that threatens livelihoods and lives through government action.
Mississippi is also preparing for an active hurricane season, which begins June 1. Greg Michel, Director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency says sheltering operations continue to be the state’s largest challenge and concern, especially as the Coronavirus continues to limit how many individuals can shelter in any given place. “ Based on CDC’s Guidance, the number of shelters required to maintain that will increase. That means an increased workload, manpower and resources available, and in some cases, some of those counties will not be able to provide the total number of shelters that are available. It does not mean that you won’t have access to a shelter, it just means you might find yourself in a situation, in a shelter where social distancing can not be maintained. So with that being the case, I want to remind everyone. We want you to evacuate early. If your area comes under an evacuation notice as we go into hurricane season” said Michel.
A funeral in Northeast Mississippi has led to a cluster of new Coronavirus cases. State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs says the indoor event involving over 50 people led to 21 investigations for COVID-19. He says this is a good example of how PPE is still necessary, even as the state reopens.
“We know that the majority of people that are contagious, don’t have symptoms. So the only way that you can prevent transmission when people are getting together is to stay away from folks and to wear a mask to prevent contamination of the air and the surfaces,” says Dr. Dobbs. “It also prevents people from breathing in infectious particles and it keeps you from touching your face. It’s such an easy thing.”
Around 2,250,000 community masks have been distributed to emergency management agencies across the state and are available to residents who need them.