Mississippi announces plan to ease coronavirus restaurant restrictions as new cases at near daily high

Published 9:35 pm Monday, May 4, 2020

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said Monday that he will ease some of the restrictions that he imposed on restaurants and outdoor gatherings to slow the spread of the coronavirus, and that the new rules will take effect Thursday.

“The threat is not gone. … We all want to move on, but we must stay vigilant,” said Reeves, a Republican.

Restaurants will be allowed to open their indoor dining rooms and outdoor seating areas, with each at no more than 50% capacity and with no more than six customers per table.

Servers must wear masks, and customers entering restaurants will be asked if they have shown any signs of the virus or have been exposed to anyone who has it. For more than a month, restaurants have been restricted to takeout or delivery.

Outdoor gatherings will be limited to 20 or fewer people, up from the current restriction of 10 or fewer. Reeves said the change could help some youth sports teams get back to practice.

The state Health Department said Monday that Mississippi had at least 7,877 confirmed cases and 310 deaths from the coronavirus as of Sunday evening. That was an increase of 327 cases and seven deaths from the previous day. Mississippi’s population is about 3 million.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick. For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the highly contagious virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal.

The Health Department said Monday that more than 79,000 coronavirus tests had been done in Mississippi as of Sunday. The department said at least 915 cases of the virus had been confirmed in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes. Of those cases, 125 people have died.

The governor’s “safer at home” order started April 27, replacing a stricter stay-at-home order that was in place for more than three weeks. The new order remains in effect until next Monday morning.

Reeves eased business restrictions under the “safer at home” order, allowing some to reopen with limits on how many customers may be present. The order allows physicians to start offering some services that had been limited in recent weeks. Barbershops, salons, tattoo parlors and entertainment venues such as movie theaters remain closed.