Despite warnings, governor says some virus rules ‘don’t apply’ to Mississippi, adds restrictions to seven counties

Published 2:46 pm Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves announced restrictions in seven Mississippi counties to curb spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus as the state eases restrictions across the rest of the state, despite a warning earlier in the day from the nation’s top infectious disease expert.

The counties identified for additional restrictions are Attala, Leake, Scott, Neshoba, Newton, Jasper and Lauderdale counties.

Reeves said the restrictions include making businesses screen employees for sickness and employees wearing masks in businesses in which social distancing is not possible.

“Please, if you live in those counties, be extra aware of your actions and the risk you face,” Reeves said. “Make no mistake this is a fight. We have more work to do. The next phase is to take a surgical approach rather than a sledgehammer approach.”

Mississippi announced Tuesday morning an additional 234 new cases of the virus in the last 24 hours and an additional 22 deaths.

The state’s totals are now 9,908 total coronavirus cases and 457 deaths attributed to the virus.

Earlier in the day one of the nation’s top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci testified to a U.S. Senate committee that states like Mississippi that chose to reopen before federal guidelines were met risked “suffering and death.”

Reeves said the Fauci’s warnings did not directly apply to Mississippi’s decision to reopen.

“There’s a recognition that every state is different,” Reeves said. “Every state’s curve is different. Many of those rules do not apply to states like Mississippi.”

Reeves’ new executive order that applied to the seven hot spot counties include the following guidelines:

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.