Beaches and lakes can reopen Monday, and even businesses deemed to be nonessential can reopen for curbside service, under an amended shelter-in-place order being enacted by Gov. Tate Reeves.
Reeves, who is in his fourth month as the state’s chief executive officer, announced the modified shelter-in-place order during a Friday morning news conference. The new order to combat the coronavirus will last a week, but he did not rule out reluctantly extending it.
The initial order, which began on April 3, is set to expire at 8 a.m. Monday. The second order begins Monday morning so the modifications, such as the opening of the lakes and beaches, will not be in place this weekend.
Of the shelter-in-place order, Reeves said, “This is not a sustainable position long term. I want it to end as soon as it possibly can.”
Reeves said, “I wanted to announce that we can all ease up and reopen today, but we can’t. We are still in the eye of the storm” in trying to curb the impact of COVID-19 by social distancing and limiting travel.
Reeves and state Health Officer Thomas Dobbs, who also attended the news conference in the Woolfolk State Office Building, said the state is still near its peak or plateau in terms of the number of Mississippians contracting and becoming ill from the coronavirus. But they expressed growing optimism that the state’s health care system is not going to be overwhelmed by COVID-19. They credited Mississippians being willing to practice social distancing for lessening the impact.
Still Mississippi reported more than 250 new cases for both Tuesday and Wednesday, though the number of new cases dropped significantly on Thursday. All total, the state has had 3,793 confirmed cases and 140 deaths.
While the coronavirus is taking a toll on the health of Mississippians, Reeves pointed out it also is having dire consequences on the Mississippi economy. In recent weeks, the state has had 130,000 unemployment claims, a 14,000 percent increase, not counting people who cannot get through to file their claims.
“This is insane—the bleeding has to stop. Lives depend on this as well,” Reeves said Thursday on social media. “Please pray for wisdom as we consider all options. Our people can’t take much more.”
To try to help the economic situation, Reeves said his new order, beginning Monday, will allow nonessential businesses to offer curbside services. He used the example of a local florist where a person could phone in an order and drive by and have it delivered to his or her vehicle. Or presumably, a person could purchase via the telephone or online an item from a retail or clothing store and pick it up curbside. Restaurants already are allowed to provide curbside or drive-through services.
Reeves said it makes sense to help local merchants as well as reducing the volume of traffic in large grocery stores or other big box stores that have been deemed as essential.
As far as the lakes and beaches, he said local government still could close them at their discretion. And when at those areas the same rules of social distancing apply – staying six feet apart and no groups of more than 10.
He said the number of people who could be on a boat should be half the maximum capacity of the vessel.
Reeves normally holds his near-daily news conferences in the afternoon, but held this one Friday morning because he is touring damage from Sunday’s storms with acting-Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf. The Sunday storms have claimed 14 lives. And Reeves said the two-mile wide tornado that tore a 200-mile long path through south Mississippi has now been deemed the widest tornado in the state’s history and the third widest ever nationally.