On April 30, Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba announced that he is extending the City of Jackson’s shelter-in-place order to May 15. Photo courtesy City of Jackson
Last week, Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba signed an executive order to extend the City of Jackson’s COVID-19 stay-at-home order to May 15. The extension, which includes revisions to the City’s previous order that are stricter than Gov. Tate Reeves’ statewide shelter-in-place order, aims to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Jackson as Mississippi’s infection and death rates continue to climb.
The mayor stated at an April 30 press conference that non-essential retail businesses in Jackson, including malls and grooming businesses, must remain closed, except for drive-thru, delivery or curbside service with the same rule applying to bars and restaurants. Employees must wear face masks any time they come within 6 feet of contact with clients or other staff, and all businesses must have hand sanitizer available on site while continuing to maintain proper social-distancing protocols and handwashing hygiene, the mayor said.
In the meantime, the mayor urged all residents to continue to remain indoors as much as possible. “I want to remind people that we are still at a critical stage in our fight to flatten the curve in this COVID-19 pandemic,” Lumumba said to reporters outside Jackson City Hall. “It is imperative that everyone maintain their vigilance and only go out if it is necessary.”
Gov. Reeves’ renewed “Safer-at-Home” order—which may change this afternoon at the governor’s press conference—states that non-essential retail businesses can reopen to the public as long as they limit their occupancy rate to 50% of their normal capacity rate. Lumumba’s order states that those businesses can only reopen to fulfill phone or online orders through curbside pick-up, delivery or drive-thru.
Lumumba explained that his administration tightened its executive order after fielding many inquiries from local business owners who were unsure about their occupancy rates, thus making it difficult for them to observe the 50% reduction in occupancy capacity.
More importantly, Lumumba said, his administration believes that even with a 50% capacity reduction, it is difficult to enforce social-distancing rules inside retail businesses, where customers may crowd around an item of interest.
“Our concern there is, first and foremost, limiting the capacity to 50% does not ensure that the social distancing requirements are met. … That is a concern we have, and that is why we are allowing curbside service,” the mayor said.
Lumumba explained that while the governor’s order provides a “minimal standard,” Mississippi mayors “have an ability to provide stricter regulations as we see fit.” That local leeway applies to non-essential businesses and services.
At Thursday’s press conference, the mayor urged residents to continue taking personal initiative to meet social-distancing requirements as the City enforces the order. He added that while the City was issuing citations to those who violated the order, the goal was not to incarcerate people, which would further expose them to the risk of contracting the virus inside crowded jails.
“What we are not trying to do is criminalize this circumstance and incarcerate people, further rendering them to a threat of being in a confined space and other dangers that may ensue,” Lumumba said.
“There is no way that we can be at every location or see every person that is in violation … the primary force that would help us to ensure that we are maintaining this would be of personal responsibility,” he said.
Read the JFP’s coverage of COVID-19 at jacksonfreepress.com/covid19. Get more details on preventive measures here. Read about announced closings and delays in Mississippi here. Read MEMA’s advice for a COVID-19 preparedness kit here.
Email information about closings and other vital related logistical details to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Email state reporter Nick Judin, who is covering COVID-19 in Mississippi, at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @nickjudin. Seyma Bayram is covering the outbreak inside the capital city and in the criminal-justice system. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter at @seymabayram0.