Reeves issues statewide shelter-in-place order
JACKSON — Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves announced Wednesday that he is ordering people statewide to stay at home to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.
The order will take effect at 5 p.m. Friday and last until 8 a.m. April 20. The Republican governor said: “This will not be easy for anyone, but we believe it is the right course of action.”
Reeves was not the only Southern governor to reverse course Wednesday. Two of his counterparts who had repeatedly resisted statewide stay-home orders — Ron DeSantis of Florida and Brian Kemp of Georgia — also issued the mandate.
Reeves said that his order is designed to prevent Mississippi’s health care system from becoming overwhelmed, and he called it “the right tool at the right time to save lives.”
Mississippi has surpassed 1,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, according to numbers released Wednesday.
Reeves has been among the minority of governors who had resisted issuing a statewide stay-at-home order, expressing concerns that it could seriously hurt the economy. Despite his reticence to do so, an increasing number of Mississippi cities took it upon themselves to set tighter restrictions on people’s movements by closing fitness centers, tattoo parlors, nail salons and barber and beauty shops.
Reeves issued his order after consulting with officials at the state Health Department and the physician who leads the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Dr. LouAnn Woodward.
In an email to Reeves, Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann and House Speaker Philip Gunn early Wednesday, Woodward said that without such an order, “our health system will be overwhelmed.” The Associated Press obtained the letter through a public records request.
“The immediate time frame (right now) is our last inflection point in controlling COVID-19 spread in our state,” Woodward wrote.
She wrote that projections show Mississippi will see its peak need for hospital beds in late April or early May, and that the need for ventilators and intensive care unit beds “will surpass our resources.”
“All ICU beds are not the same,” Woodward wrote. “Small critical care units in small hospitals will be in over their heads quickly. The reality is we are facing an uphill battle as a state. As CEO of the organization that will bear the brunt of fallout, I need to speak my mind.”
The state health officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, said during a news conference with Reeves on Wednesday that the coronavirus is spreading in some nursing homes.
Reeves issued his first stay-home order Tuesday, but for only one of Mississippi’s 82 counties. Reeves said Lauderdale County, on the state line with Alabama, had seen a recent rapid increase in positive tests for the highly contagious virus.
The state Health Department on Wednesday updated Mississippi’s confirmed coronavirus caseload to at least 1,073 people and 22 deaths.
Because testing remains limited as the outbreak grows, many people moving around their communities may not know they’ve contracted the virus until well after they’ve infected others. Most infected people experience mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks, but a fraction of people suffering more severe illnesses can require respirators to survive, and as the caseload rapidly grows, hospitals are bracing for a wave of patients.
Reeves said his statewide stay-home order includes a ban on evictions. It mandates the closure of movie theaters, beaches, bowling alleys, gyms and salons. Reeves said walking trails would remain open.
Here is the full order issued by Gov. Tate Reeves Wednesday in regards to his statewide shelter-in-place order:
This is a somber time—for our country and our state. We are all in grave danger, from coast to coast. As leaders, our top priority is and always will be the safety of our citizens.
Every day, for the last several weeks, I have asked our health experts whether it is time for the ultimate action of a “shelter in place” order statewide. Yesterday, for the first time, we got the answer we had been anticipating. They told me we are now at the point in Mississippi’s cycle where such drastic restrictions are required. Today is the day. We are announcing a shelter-in-place order. It will go into effect on Friday at 5:00 PM.
I will let our top health official, Dr. Dobbs, explain his thought process behind the timing. I just want to offer a simple message to Mississippi:
This will not be easy for anyone, but we believe it is right. 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.
Today, this is the best course of action for Mississippi. I’ll turn it over to Dr. Dobbs for some more information.
In this latest executive order, the Governor lays out the guidelines of the statewide shelter-in-place to slow the spread of COVID-19, including:
- Individuals are to stay at home except for the limited allowances in the executive order.
- When outside of their homes, people must follow social distancing guidelines by maintaining a 6-foot distance from others and avoid groups of 10 or more.
- Evictions are suspended, though people are still required to pay any rent or make any mortgage payments.
- All nonessential businesses are to stop all activities other than those necessary for minimum operations (e.g. payroll, health insurance, security) and enabling employees to work from home.
- Social and other non-essential gatherings in groups of more than 10 people must be cancelled or rescheduled.
- Restaurants and bars may only remain open for drive-thru, curbside, and/or delivery service.
- People may leave their homes only to perform essential activities, such as caring for someone in the vulnerable population, getting food or necessary supplies, and working for an essential business.
- Individual outdoor recreation is encouraged, but not group recreation or activities such as soccer or basketball games.