Businesses are reopening cautiously
Special to Wesson News
Mississippi businesses are cautiously reopening, even as cases of COVID-19 continue to mount statewide.
Governor Tate Reeves issued a new Safer-At-Home executive order, which has been extended until May 25. He initially allowed retail stores that had been closed under his previous orders to reopen, and subsequently permitted restaurants and bars, parks, and salons, barbershops and gymnasiums to reopen as well -- all with conditions on cleaning and sanitizing their premises, social distancing and protecting employees, and limitations on the number of customers they can serve.
The Governor opened the salons, barber shops and gyms on a day when the number of new COVID-19 cases spiked to 404 -- the largest number reported so far, as the state's total approached 9,000. On average, the state has been reporting 200 to 300 new cases of COVID-19 each day. Lincoln County's cases are close to 200, including nearly 60 at long-term care facilities. In Copiah County, cases number more than 150, and Lawrence County has reported more than 60 cases.
Restaurants and bars can cautiously allow diners inside at fifty percent of their capacity and separated by six feet, with servers wearing masks if they are in close contact with customers. Similarly, retailers must limit traffic to fifty percent of capacity, and the Governor recommended store employees wear face masks when they are on the job. At businesses that cannot avoid sustained person-to-person contact -- gyms, salons and barbershops -- employers must wear masks. Salons and barbershops must limit customers inside to one per service employee. In gyms, workout equipment must be separated by at least six feet and sanitized after use. All businesses were required to deep clean and sanitize their premises before reopening, and now must maintain the condition daily.
Seniors, who are more vulnerable to the virus, are asked to continue to stay at home, and people are still being asked to maintain a minimum of six feet apart from each other and avoid groups of 10 or larger. Elective medical and dental procedures are now allowed. People are being asked to limit leaving their households for essential travel only.
"I've been in contact with small and large businesses across the state, and what we have found is that the vast majority of businesses are taking extra steps and extra precautions," Reeves says. "We anticipate that business owners are going to continue to take necessary precautions."
State health officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs adds: "If we are diligent about wearing our masks in public, employees wearing masks in public, maintaining social distancing, making sure we maintain proper hand hygiene -- all the things we know will work -- it can be safe."