Governor orders staying in place

By CHARLIE SMITH AND SUSAN AMUNDSON,

Mississippi residents must stay at home under most circumstances beginning at 5 p.m. Friday under an order issued this afternoon by Gov. Tate Reeves, but most businesses can remain open.

In a streamed video, Reeves announced the "shelter in place" restrictions from 5 p.m. Friday, April 3 to 8 a.m. Monday, April 20 intended to slow spread of the coronavirus.

The state's cases have risen rapidly in the past week, reaching 1,073 with 22 deaths as of this morning. That includes six identified cases in Marion County.

Residents can leave for activities "necessary to their health and safety," as well as that of family or household members, including pets. They can leave to obtain food or other services needed to "maintain the safety, sanitation and essential operation of the home," and for individual outdoor recreation.

Other than that, Mississippians are supposed to stay home.

"This will not be easy for anyone, but we believe it is right," Reeves said. "We know that there are many people who are scared: wondering what this means for their wages and their ability to put food on the table. We are here for you and working hard to help. Mississippi will not allow you to fall without a hand to help you back up.

"We know that there are some who still do not have a healthy fear of this virus. They are wrong, and they are risking lives if they do not take this seriously.

"This order will be enforced. It will be taken very, very seriously. It will not be forever. We will get through this and open our state back up as soon as our health experts tell me it is wise.

"Our goal is to prevent our health care system from being overwhelmed. I pray that all of our orders and preparations will be enough. We believe that this is the right tool at the right time to save lives."

The order may be enforced by all local and state law enforcement officers. Violators face up to six months in jail and a $500 fine, according to Section 33-15-43 of the Mississippi Code.

Reeves also ordered non-essential businesses to shut down. However, most every industry in the state has previously been classified as essential in a separate executive order by Reeves. Essential businesses are to operate "at such level as necessary to provide essential services and functions."

Restaurants can remain open but can continue to only serve via drive-through, curbside or delivery.

Fields of business deemed as "essential" during the coronavirus outbreak include:

• First responders and public safety officials, including law enforcement, firefighters, court personnel, military, corrections, probation and parole officers, child protection workers, EMTs and 911 call center employees.

• Health care workers in almost all capacities

• Utility workers and others essential to infrastructure, also including car sales and repairs, taxi and Uber drivers and hotel employees

• Manufacturers in a broad range of areas

• Agriculture and farm workers, which also includes gas and diesel suppliers, forest product businesses, vets, meat processors and other industries that support agriculture.

• Supermarkets, gas stations and hardware stores

• Trash collection, mail and shipping services, home repair, automotive repairs, warehouses and laundromats

• Media, including newspapers, digital news sites, television and radio

• Education, including public and private K-12 schools and colleges and universities

• Financial services including banks, insurance and accounting

• Professional services including legal, accounting, insurance and real estate

• Nonprofits that provide services like food banks, homeless shelters and foster care

• Construction and related fields, including HVAC repair, painters, plumbers and electricians

• Defense industry workers, including military personnel and subcontractors

• Vendors that provide logistics and technology support

• Religious entities

• Cybersecurity workers

• Others categories as may be deemed essential by the state Health Department, Emergency Management Agency or other state agencies.

All public and private social and non-essential gatherings of 10 or more people are prohibited. Previously they had only been recommended to cease.

The executive order also closes recreational facilities like parks, beaches, lakes, movie theaters, museums and bowling alleys.

Dr. Thomas Dobbs, the state health officer, said they know more cases are coming and the time was now to enforce measures to slow the spread down.

“This will allow us to be more aggressive," Dobbs said.

Click HERE to download a PDF of the governor's executive order.

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