• The governor of Mississippi on Tuesday signed an executive order that effectively overrode safety measures implemented by other officials during the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Gov. Tate Reeves’ order classified businesses including gun shops, department stores, and real-estate offices as “essential.” It also urged employees to work from home “to the extent feasible.”
  • It advised citizens to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people but said that “this does not apply” to places such as offices, airports, and grocery and department stores.
  • Reeves has encouraged working from home and social distancing but resisted calls for more stringent measures. On Monday, he said that “Mississippi’s never going to be China,” according to the Jackson Free Press, likely referring to the lockdown measures in large parts of China.
  • Reeves’ executive order led some businesses in the Jackson area to reverse their work-from-home plans, the Free Press reported.
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The governor of Mississippi on Tuesday issued an executive order overriding local officials’ responses to the coronavirus outbreak and classifying a wide range of businesses – including gun shops, department stores, home-repair services, mass transit, Uber and Lyft services, and real-estate offices – as “essential.”

Republican Gov. Tate Reeves has closed public schools and declared a state of emergency in the past two weeks. As of Thursday, Mississippi had reported more than 370 coronavirus cases and at least five deaths.

The executive order urged employees to work from home “to the extent feasible” but also said many types of business were necessary for maintaining community, public health, and the economy.

The order advised citizens to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people but said that “this does not apply” to places such as offices, airports, and grocery and department stores.

The order overrode several public-health measures that local authorities had called for. It said that “any order, rule, regulation or action by any governing body, agency or political subdivision of the state that imposes any additional freedom of movement or social distancing limitations on Essential Business or Operation, restricts scope of services or hours of operation of any Essential Business or Operation, or which will or might in any way conflict with or impede the purpose of this Executive Order is suspended and unenforceable during this COVID-19 State of Emergency.”

Jackson Medical Mall in mississippi

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Foto: Jackson Medical Mall in Mississippi. Source: Google Maps

On Friday, the Mississippi State Department of Health recommended that restaurants suspend dine-in services. Several local governments followed suit.

Reeves’ order allows restaurants and bars to continue serving dine-in customers, provided they take appropriate social-distancing measures.

Several towns had also imposed evening curfews, which as a restriction on freedom of movement could be superseded by Reeves’ order if they prevent “essential” businesses – like taxi and delivery services – from operating at those times.

On March 16, Chokwe A. Lumumba, the mayor of Jackson, closed several civic buildings, including the city hall, the Jackson Free Press reported. But as the executive order exempts offices from having to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people, the buildings might have to reopen.

The Free Press reported on Tuesday night that several businesses in the Jackson area had canceled their work-from-home plans.

mississippi sign

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Reeves has largely encouraged social distancing, and in a Facebook post on Wednesday he urged businesses to “allow every worker that can to work from home.” But he has resisted calls for a strict statewide lockdown – similar to those imposed in some parts of China, where the number of coronavirus cases has dropped significantly.

The Free Press reported that Reeves said in a Facebook Live session on Monday: “Mississippi’s never going to be China. Mississippi’s never going to be North Korea.”

The MSNBC host Rachel Maddow on Tuesday described Reeves as “untroubled” by the coronavirus outbreak, a characterization he called “a dangerous lie.”

“Because we pray and reject dictatorship models like China they say we are ‘untroubled,’ undermining our warnings and pleas to stay home,” he said in another Facebook post.