Hattiesburg mayor announces new measures to prevent spread of COVID-19

Hattiesburg mayor announces new measures to prevent spread of COVID-19
Mayor Toby Barker announcing an executive order on March 17 in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. (Source: City of Hattiesburg)

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker announced an updated executive order Tuesday night implementing new measures to prevent COVID-19 from spreading at Hub City businesses.

Under Barker’s new order, gas stations, automotive motive repair, laundromat, bicycle repair and liquor and beer stores should only allow 10 or fewer people in a business at a time.

Grocery stores, dollar stores, pharmacies, convenience stores and hardware and building material businesses will limit the number of people in a building at one time, corresponding with the building’s size. Guidelines are being sent to the stores and it is expected to be implemented by Thursday.

Businesses will also not allow lines to form at stores, with customers waiting in cars before entering. Businesses will also ensure that there is at least 6 feet of space between customers at check-out lines and that there is no clustering of people in sales areas.

Financial institutions should close the inside of buildings and only allow services through appointment and drive-through.

Nonessential businesses requiring close human contact such as nail salons, tattoo parlors, spas and massage therapy businesses will close.

Hair salons and barber shops may continue to operate by appointment only, and the barber, stylist or cosmetologist must wear personal protective equipment to cover their mouth. There must be no sitting areas for waiting customers and there can only be one customer in the building at a time.

Nonessential retailers, such as sporting goods, furniture, clothing and auto dealers, shall limit services to curbside services, pick-up or appointment only.

The executive order runs until April 30.

“I’m asking you to stay home, do only what is essential and then go home,” Barker said.

COVID-19 Update: March 24, 2020

COVID-19 Update: March 24, 2020 We apologize for the technical difficulties you all may have experienced while trying to tune into tonight's live feed with Mayor Toby Barker. Below is the full video along with content that goes into the update in detail. The end of the post includes links to the web story and additional links to the executive orders. --- Tonight, Mayor Barker gave an update on the prevalence of COVID-19 in our community. This update came with further steps we are taking as a city to safeguard the public’s health and a request for your help. "In the past three days, we have seen the number of cases in our community nearly triple, going from 5 presumptive positive tests in Forrest County to 14, with two more added in Lamar County. Statewide, the growth of positive cases, while expected, is still alarming. As of this evening, we have the 12th highest infection rate in the nation with 320 cases. We know more positive cases are coming. There are still well over 100 pending tests; and between Forrest General Hospital and Hattiesburg Clinic’s Cough and Fever Clinic, as well as Merit Health Wesley, dozens of people are being tested every day. As the log jam hopefully clears in the next several days in processing those tests, we know there will be many more positive cases. Over the past few days, we have continued to work through strengthening our city’s social distancing efforts, with the goal of individually and collectively limiting in-person contact to try and slow the spread of COVID-19. I want to thank our restaurants for transitioning their services to take-out, pick up, to go and drive-through services. I know this wasn't easy. As we anticipate growth in our number of positive cases; and as we try to think through what our next steps will be in policies that can help reduce person to person contact… we have first begun the hard process of considering decisions that may affect essential and nonessential business enterprises. For that guidance, we look to Governor Tate Reeves, who just a couple of hours ago issued Executive Order 1463 that defined “essential business or operation.” You can find his executive order on our Web site at hattiesburgms.com/coronavirus. Tonight, we issue a third executive order on further steps to slow the spread of COVID-19. Our job as a city is to set a framework where we can best provide for the public health of our community while still providing our economy the space to operate creatively. GROCERY STORES If you drive around Hattiesburg over the past 7-10 days, the place where we are seeing the most people, in line, crowded around one another, is at the grocery store. The dollar store. The building supply store. And the pharmacy. All of these are absolutely essential, and while none of these are as busy as last week, there have been times when our stores are maybe not overwhelmed...but certainly more crowded than desired during a pandemic. Toward this end, we have met with many of our local grocery stores, dollar stores, pharmacies and building material stores and asked for their active assistance in doing even more to promote social distancing at these essential retail facilities. I appreciate so much their collaboration and input on these guidelines because they recognize slowing the spread is a team effort. Here is what our grocery stores, dollar stores, pharmacies and building supply stores are agreeing to do going forward: 1. Take steps to limit access to a certain number of customers at one time in the store (huge shout-out to the Lil Butcher Shoppe, who started doing this last week). Sam's Club began doing this earlier today, and Corner Market/Sunflower, Winn Dixie and other will begin doing this tomorrow, with the goal of having all of our grocery stores doing this by Thursday. Please be patient, and know that supply lines are coming back strong; so there's no need to stock up more than you need. 2. Not allow lines outside the door. Customers will wait at their vehicles to enter the building. 3. Provide at least 6 feet of space between customers in and around checkout lines. 4. Take steps to discourage the clustering of customers in sales areas. These are adjustments, and it may take some time to get it right. We could not do this without the leadership of our local grocers as well as big-box management teams. FINANCIAL SERVICES Our financial services institutions (banks, insurance, payroll, accounting, etc.) should limit access to their building's interior through and by appointment only. Banks should continue doing as much business as possible through drive-through. Most banks in our area have already transitioned to this model, and we appreciate their leadership. OTHER ESSENTIAL RETAILERS Gas stations, laundromats, automotive/bicycle repair shops, liquor and beer stores and should limit access to 10 or fewer customers at one time. NON ESSENTIAL RETAILERS This executive order also addresses some of the nonessential retail establishments in Hattiesburg going forward. We fully recognize the cost of shutting off economic activity. We take these sorts of decisions very seriously. Since this started, we knew sacrifices would have to be made, and we knew there would be real economic damage done. There are many people whom this pandemic will affect in a real and costly way. Those are the costs that we must acknowledge. Those are the individuals and families who will be making huge sacrifices for the public health of our community. With that said, we services that require close human contact, that enhance the potential for unnecessary exposure – namely nail salons, tattoo parlors, spas and massage parlors – shall close. Barbershops and hair salons may continue to operate by appointment only. The barber, cosmetologist, stylist or other practitioners must wear personal protective equipment to cover his/her mouth. There shall be no available sitting area for waiting customers. There shall be a maximum of one customer in the building at one time. Nonessential retail – sporting goods, clothing stores, florists, furniture stores, auto dealers (not including an auto dealer’s shop department) – shall limit access to those stores to either curbside service, pickup sales or by appointment only. YOUR PART TO PLAY Understand we don’t take these things lightly. We don’t do them because other places are doing them. We are trying to employ Hattiesburg solutions for the public health of Hattiesburg. But know this. We as a city can set policies that hopefully lead to good collective outcomes of flattening the curve; but the ultimate success of whether we slow the spread of coronavirus in the Hattiesburg community…depends on you. You ultimately decide – on whether or not you make good decisions with your health and the health of those you come into contact with. The reason that the city acts in the form of policy and executive order...acts that have devastating economic consequences to your fellow citizens...the reason we do that is to enable you to make better decisions. COVID-19 is dangerous. It is a threat to the lives of our people. I need you, I’m asking you - to stay home. Do only what is essential, and then go home. Slowing the spread of this disease will stretch us and demand that we make months-long changes to our habits and lifestyle. But it is the mark of a great community when that community – our community – comes together (or in this case, stays apart) to overcome a challenge for each other. May we be that community." WEB STORY: http://www.hattiesburgms.com/news-updates/mayor-barker-provides-further-guidance-to-businesses-in-response-to-covid-19/ Executive Order 2020-3, issued on March 24: http://www.hattiesburgms.com/wp-content/uploads/exec_order_2020-3.pdf Executive Order 2020-2, issued on March 21: http://www.hattiesburgms.com/wp-content/uploads/exec_order_2020-2.pdf Executive Order 2020-1, issued on March 17: http://www.hattiesburgms.com/wp-content/uploads/exec_order_2020-1.pdf

Posted by City of Hattiesburg-Government on Tuesday, March 24, 2020

There are currently 14 positive COVID-19 cases in Forrest County, with two more in Lamar County. Barker said there more than 100 pending tests between Forrest General Hospital, Hattiesburg Clinic and Merit Health Wesley and the numbers are expected to increase.

Barker issued an executive order in response to the COVID-19 outbreak on March 17, ordering restaurants, bars and coffee shops to reduce patrons and implementing social distancing guidelines. Barker revised the executive order on Saturday, ordering all restaurants to only offer take-out, pick-up, delivery or drive through services.

Bars, nightclubs, taverns, lounges as well as gyms and fitness centers were also closed under Saturday’s order. Gatherings of more than 10 people for any event were prohibited, including church services, weddings, concerts and other entertainment events.

Barker concluded Tuesday’s announcement with the following:

“We as a city can set policies that hopefully lead to good collective outcomes of flattening the curve; but the ultimate success of whether we slow the spread of coronavirus in the Hattiesburg community…depends on you.

You ultimately decide – on whether or not you make good decisions with your health and the health of those you come into contact with.

The reason that the city acts in the form of policy and executive order…acts that have devastating economic consequences to your fellow citizens…the reason we do that is to enable you to make better decisions. COVID-19 is dangerous. It is a threat to the lives of our people. I need you, I’m asking you – to stay home. Do only what is essential, and then go home.”

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