Cities across Mississippi are unilaterally deciding to close restaurants to dine-in services, churches, bars, barber shops, movie theaters, gyms, recreation centers, and other service businesses to enhance social distancing measures and limit the spread of the coronavirus.
There has been no mandate from the Governor’s office, the Department of Health, or state Emergency Management on such actions, and it isn’t likely to be put forward in the near term.
MEMA Director Greg Michel says Gov. Tate Reeves has left those decisions up to local governments.
“Governor Reeves has been reluctant to direct businesses to close as a restrictive measure due to COVID-19,” Michel told Y’all Politics. “Although the governor has the authority to direct businesses to close, he has deferred such decision-making to local leadership.”
These decisions by local mayors and city councils will have tremendous impacts on the lives of citizens as well as on local and state revenues. The measures are unprecedented, however it is the elected officials nearest to the people who know best what their citizenry is able to sustain and endure.
Balancing health and safety with practical, fiscally responsible governance is what mayors, councilmen, and aldermen are now tasked with on a grand scale few could have dreamed of when they signed up to run.
Most counties and municipalities in Mississippi are also limiting access to local government buildings or restricting access altogether, choose to communicate with the public through phone or email during this time.
MEMA Director Michel says heeding health recommendations is key during this pandemic.
“MEMA is urging the citizens of Mississippi to heed recommendations from the State Health Officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, to avoid crowds of 10 or more people and wash your hands frequently,” Michel said.
Gov. Reeves requested a disaster declaration by the U.S. Small Business Administration on Tuesday, March 17, 2020.
This request will provide low-interest, Economic Injury Disaster Loans to small businesses and non-profits that have been severely impacted by the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Y’all Politics Capitol Reporter Sarah Ulmer contributed to this story.