Meridian plans to close non-essential businesses Friday

Paula Merritt / The Meridian Star

 Meridian Mayor Percy Bland, flanked by CAO Eddie Kelly and Public Safety Director Doug Stephens, speaks about the city’s response to the COVID-19 crisis during a news conference at city hall on Tuesday.

Meridian Mayor Percy Bland announced plans Tuesday to sign an executive order, closing non-essential businesses at 5 p.m. Friday, March 27 for two weeks, unless they comply with federal and state health guidelines and are not open to the public other than by curbside to go, drive thru, telework or other means to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

The order could change based on decisions at the state level, officials said.

The city said examples of non-essential businesses include personal care and leisure services, such as theaters, gyms and recreation centers, museums, bowling alleys and skating rinks, sporting and concert venues.

The list is not exhaustive and anyone with questions may call the city at 601-485-1927, officials said. Businesses may seek exemptions.

The following measures will be in place beginning at 5 p.m. on Friday:

• Funeral services will be limited to 50 people and other gatherings should be limited to 10 people or fewer.

• No in-house dining or public seating areas should be available in restaurants, but pickup, drive-thru and delivery are permitted.

• Bars, lounges and nightclubs shall close, though they may provide take out, pickup, delivery or drive-thru services for food or beverage as allowed by law.

• Liquor stores shall have no more than 10 people inside at any one time and must close at 9 p.m.

• Barber shops, hair and nail salons may only have 10 or fewer people inside at any one time and must close at 9 p.m.

Violations of the order will be subject to misdemeanor prosecution, the city said.

At a news conference Tuesday, Bland said he was trying to balance the safety and welfare of citizens and impacts to businesses.

“Most paramount, has and always will be the safety and welfare of our citizens,” Bland said.

He asked citizens to do their part.

“We just wanted to let the people know we care, we know what’s going on within your families,” Bland said. “We also know that as this thing possibly continues to go, business owners are going to be hurt, families are going to be hurt.”

Chief Administrative Officer Eddie Kelly acknowledged some may have preferred to see the city shut everything down.

“We talked about the implications and we talked about the impact,” he said. “I think about that young mother who’s got two children and she’s working part-time…and I understand the safety aspect of that, but we’ve got to be mindful of the people that we are entrusted to keep safe and provide a good way for them to make a living.”

A list of businesses considered essential by the city include:

• Hospitals, nursing homes, health clinics, drug stores, pharmacies, banks, grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations, military installations, security and emergency response operations.

• Construction or repair of commercial, residential, public works buildings and projects

• Building supplies and hardware stores

• Businesses in the supply chain for essential business

• Professional services which serve said companies

• Convenience stores and discount stores

• Daycare centers

• Auto repair shops

• Post offices and shipping businesses

• Veterinary clinics and pet stores

• Farmers’ markets and food banks

• Businesses that provide necessities to shelters and economically disadvantaged people

• Educational institutions, for the purposes of facilitating distance learning.

• Food processing - agriculture feed mills, warehousing, storage, and distribution

Essential businesses are encouraged to telework and residents should stay at least six feet away from others to the extent possible.

The city started a nightly citywide curfew Monday, beginning at 9 p.m. and ending at 6 a.m.

The curfew is extended through April 6.

Mississippi COVID-19 map as of March 24, 2020

Mississippi's total of COVID-19 cases reached 320 as of Tuesday, March 24.

71 new cases

The Mississippi State Department of Health reported 71 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, bringing the state total to 320. Newton, Noxubee and Choctaw Counties all have their first confirmed cases.

No cases were reported in Lauderdale County and neighboring Clarke, Kemper, and Neshoba counties in the latest update.

One person in Mississippi has died from the virus since the outbreak began.

Most people infected with COVID-19 have only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, and recover in about two weeks. Particularly vulnerable are older adults and those with existing health problems who can develop severe complications, including pneumonia.

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