HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker announced several measures the city is taking to prevent the spread of the coronavirus during a Tuesday news conference.
The measures include guidelines for businesses, the altering of city operations and changes to municipal court procedures to reduce the transmission of COVID-19.
“Monitoring COVID-19 comes with many steps and factors – including listening to the medical community, meeting with stakeholder groups from the Greater Hattiesburg area, adjusting city services and personnel and working through CDC guidelines – all while trying to process and interpret recent recommendations from the President and the Governor," Barker said. "Today’s updates across city operations, court procedures and business guidelines will all help our community as we continue to work through this pandemic together.”
Barker issued an executive order that provides guidelines for bars and restaurants in the Hub City to limit large gatherings of people. The guidelines will go into effect Wednesday and remain in effect until March 31. The guidelines will be enforced citywide.
The executive order lays out the following guidelines for businesses:
- All full-service restaurants with indoor seating will cease operations at 9 p.m. daily. When the dining room closes, restaurants may still offer delivery and pickup/to go orders.
- Full-service restaurants and coffee shops will reduce indoor and outdoor seating capacity by half or to 50 people. Restaurants must provide at least 6 feet of space between tables.
- Bars and nightclubs will cease service at 12 a.m. and must reduce capacity by half. Last call will be at 11:15 p.m. Everyone must be out the door and headed home by midnight.
- Mall food courts at both Turtle Creek Mall and Cloverleaf Mall will reduce seating capacity to 50 people and ensure there is 6 feet between tables.
- Operators of restaurants, coffee shops and bars will post notice encouraging patrons to please consider returning home after leaving. Operators will not allow gathering for waiting, seating or for access purposes. They will implement the use of text messages, phone calls or other notification to advise if a table is ready.
- Operators will encourage no public gathering in any area. When patrons exit the restaurant or bar, they may not wander the streets or congregate in groups outside.
- All dance hall permits are hereby suspended until March 31.
- All event venues shall ensure that there are no gatherings of more than 50 people.
- All gyms and fitness centers will ensure that there are no more than 50 people in facility at one time and will practice frequent sanitation methods throughout business hours.
“We are mandating these new guidelines and requesting restaurants, bars and businesses comply with these recommendations – understanding that they could change any day, just as what we know about this virus and federal/state mandates and guidelines are changing, every day,” Barker said.
Barker also asked restaurants and bars to voluntarily comply with an effort called the Hattiesburg Way, which is a commitment to provide safe and healthy transactions during the COVID-10 pandemic. You can find more information on the effort and see what businesses have committed to it at hattiesburgms.com/coronavirus/biz/.
Hattiesburg is also altering city operations in the following ways:
- All employees over 60 in a public-facing role will work from home.
- The city will continue to share the importance of staying home if not well, operating basic hygiene and to call a primary care physician, an immediate care facility or the employee health clinic if symptoms arise.
- Water cut-offs were suspended last week until further notice.
- For the next two weeks, Hub City Transit will suspend service on the GOLD and GREEN routes. Service on the BLUE route may additionally see less frequent service than posted. An interactive map featuring bus trackers can be accessed at hubcitytransit.com/map.
- The Hattiesburg Police Department will shift to taking reports by phone or email rather than in-person. These actions will not be available in-person at HPD’s physical locations at 300 Klondyke Street or 104 Lamar Boulevard. To file a report, call 601-545-4965. To request a copy of a report, call 601-545-4964 or email email@example.com.
- All who call dispatch lines will be prompted to answer questions regarding symptoms of COVID-19. This is to help ensure that first responders are able to put on the proper protective equipment. You are asked to answer the questions honestly, even if it is “I don’t know.”
Court procedures will also be affected in the following ways:
- All cases scheduled for the weeks of March 16 to March 20 and March 23 to March 27, including all previously scheduled plea deals, trial days, DUI days and other dockets, will be rescheduled.
- All defendants scheduled for court cases during this time period and attorneys should contact the court via phone at 601-545-4938 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out when the case will be rescheduled. Cases not reset within a reasonable amount of time will be reset by court order.
- All defendants wishing to plead guilty to traffic cases may do so by phone at 601-545-4938 or email email@example.com. Once communication occurs, instruction to fill out guilty plea forms will follow.
- The court will remain open to the public to allow for filing of motions, charges, the seeking of domestic abuse protection orders, payments of fines and costs. You will be asked several screening questions before proceeding. Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 should proceed with conducting court business via phone at 601-545-4938 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“This virus is testing all of us. It is uncomfortable. It is disrupting our normal way of life. But it is here, and it will be with us for the next weeks and months," Barker said. "We will get through this, but we’ve got to stick together,” said Barker. “Use your local restaurant and coffee shop. Go get a gift card for future use. Order pick-up or curbside delivery. As Hattiesburgers, we celebrate each other’s successes and we pick each other up when there is a challenge. This situation presents an opportunity for all of us to do our part.”