Greenwood residents are now prohibited from participating in most gatherings of more than 10 people in an effort to limit the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak in Leflore County.
The City Council unanimously approved the emergency resolution during a special called meeting Monday afternoon. Practicing social distancing themselves, the council meeting was held on Zoom, an online teleconference platform.
The directive follows the recommendations of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Mississippi State Department of Health as a way to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.
According to the Department of Health, there have been 249 individuals in Mississippi, including nine in Leflore County, who have tested positive so far for the virus that causes COVID-19, a respiratory disease. One death, in Hancock County, has been attributed to the virus.
Federal and state health officials also recommend that people practice social distancing — staying at home as much as possible and staying 6 feet apart from other people — in order to avoid contracting and spreading the coronavirus.
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Retail stores, bars, churches and fraternal and civic organizations, to name a few, are examples of institutions listed in the Greenwood resolution that now must limit gatherings to no more than 10 people. The restriction also applies to funerals, weddings and other social gatherings.
The crowd-size limit does not mention restaurants, although Mayor Carolyn McAdams last week strongly encouraged all bars to close and all restaurants to shut down their dine-in services. Most restaurants have voluntarily complied.
The city’s mandate also directs businesses and governmental entities that remain open to “implement appropriate safeguards” to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Those precautions, as spelled out in the order, include “mandating social distancing, sending home sick employees and actively encouraging sick employees to stay at home, separating and sending home employees who appear to have respiratory illness symptoms, emphasizing work-from-home policies where possible, mandating respiratory etiquette and proper hand hygiene, maintaining clean and sanitary workplaces, (and) cautioning employees regarding travel.” The directive exempts from strict enforcement of this provision city departments, health-care facilities, and businesses deemed essential, such as pharmacies, grocery stores, convenience stores, takeout and delivery restaurants and banks.
The mandates are in effect for 15 days, but they can be shortened or lengthened by the City Council, explained Don Brock, the city’s attorney.
Police now have the authority to break up groups of more than 10, McAdams said.
The resolution says that violations of the orders would be considered misdemeanors. McAdams said, however, that she does not anticipate the police will arrest or ticket anyone but rather use the resolution’s authority to break up such gatherings.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.
Prior to the City Council’s vote Monday, Ward 6’s David Jordan, who’s also a state senator, asked if the resolution could be amended to close down day care centers.
Jordan said that he’s already asked two day care centers in town to close, adding that children within day care centers wouldn’t follow the rules of social distancing.
“I believe that life is more important than a few dollars,” Jordan said. “I want children to live.”
Ward 1’s Johnny Jennings said that day care centers provide a useful service since some workers, such as first responders or health-care workers, must still show up to work rather than working from home.
Both McAdams and Brock said they consider day care centers an essential business.
Since the state regulates day care facilities, Brock said, “I would prefer the state take action,” regarding their possible closure.
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