Town seeks to stay healthy
Urged on by elected officials, emergency management and public health authorities across the state and Federal leadership, including the President, Governor Tate Reeves ordered Mississippi residents to stay at home until at least April 20 to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) unless they are essential workers.
The Governor's response reflected fears like those raised by Lincoln County Emergency Manager Clifford Galey last month, who voiced concerns that the numbers of those infected by the virus could grow in the area because people aren't taking the spread of the virus seriously enough.
"We have to go to the grocery and the doctor and the bank, and have to get something to eat, but it's spreading rapidly and we need to be vigilant," Galey said. He said it's important to follow Mississippi State Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on hand washing, social distancing and quarantines, and "not going anywhere that we don't need to go."
Yet many Wesson residents were already staying at home and avoiding crowds where they are highly vulnerable to contracting the coronavirus, which can be spread in the air through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes and land on the mouths or noses of other nearby people who inhale them into their lungs.
Also, local businesses, organizations and institutions had already either halted activities and operations or were experiencing drastic slowdowns.
Wesson Attendance Center had closed at least through April 17, in line with an earlier executive order issued by the Governor. The Town of Wesson cancelled its annual Easter celebration. Wesson Chamber of Commerce cancelled the annual Founders' Day festivities in April. The public library shut down. The Wesson Lions Club, American Legion Post and Masonic Lodge cancelled meetings. The Wesson Athletic Foundation indefinitely delayed its spring/ summer baseball/softball season for children and youth. Local churches started reaching parishioners online with Sunday worship and cancelled Bible studies and others activities. Wesson Baptist Church, among other congregations, is planning to hold its Easter service in its parking lot, with members sitting in their cars instead of pews. Under the Governor's executive order, the municipal park is still open for individuals, but not for group activities.
Co-Lin, Wesson's largest employer, shifted its academic and adult education courses to the internet and developed a limited access delivery plan for its Career Technical Education programs, closed its daycare center and indefinitely suspended all events hosted by the college or meeting in a college facility, along with travel, golf course operations and high school equivalency testing. The National Junior College Athletic Association shut down its sports activities. The college told residential students not to return to campus following their spring break and to retrieve essential items from their residence halls.
Another Time. . .Another Place and Mill Town Spa closed before the Governor's order, and Mill Town Mall closed when he issued his executive order. Local restaurants are now just offering takeout meals. Initially, Porches restaurant closed altogether, but reopened to serve takeouts. Dump's Barbeque and the 51 Diner, which had continued limited inside dining service with fewer customers, are now providing only takeout service under the Governor's executive order. The takeout only ice cream parlor across from the municipal park remains open.
Ace Hardware proprietor Tim Sutton said he didn't particularly like benefitting from a pandemic as an essential business, but his customers are apparently working on long-delayed projects while ensconced in their homes to social distance themselves from others. At other retailers considered essential because of their gas and/or food sales, business was off. At the Dollar General and Family Dollar stores, customers are coming in the morning and late afternoon to stock up on food and other necessities, but business is slow during other hours. At convenience stores -- Ashley's 51, Shop 'N Wash, East End -- "business is like a Saturday afternoon -- our worst time," Jared Ashley at Ashley's 51 reported. At the former API building, metal fabricating work continued as an essential business, with Steel Outdoors consumer sales down and Alpha Machine & Welding's industrial sales remaining steady.
The Governor's statewide stay-at-home executive encompasses the following guidelines:
• Individuals are to stay at home except for limited exceptions -- working for an essential business, going out to buy food, gas, and necessary supplies; buying food and necessities for someone who can't get out of the house; running, walking or exercising alone.
• 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, although 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 enable 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.
So far, the town has stayed healthy, Dr. Stephen Liverman said. He has been screening possible COVID-19 cases among his local patients by telephone and setting appointments at intervals so his waiting room is not crowded. "I have heard from many people who 'think' they have been infected by the coronavirus, but have not had to refer anyone to be tested so far," he said.
Are all the precautions necessary? Yes, Liverman affirmed. The virus can cause a severe lung infection, and the seemingly "draconian" response to stop its spread is warranted.