Mississippi Governor First to Preempt Local Stay-at-Home Orders

As more governors order residents to stay at home and/or close nonessential businesses to contain the spread of COVID-19, Gov. Tate Reeves has gone the opposite direction by issuing an executive order that supersedes stricter local measures.

3 minute read

March 30, 2020, 6:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid

Mississippi State Capitol

Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

The coronavirus death toll surpassed 1,000 on Thursday as the U.S. supplanted China in being the global leader in the number of confirmed cases, exceeding 85,000. To contain the spread of the virus, The New York Times reports that "200 million people in 21 states47 counties and 14 cities are being urged to stay home" as of March 26.

Gov. Tate Reeves (R) is not among those governors. "Mississippi's never going to be China. Mississippi's never going to be North Korea," the governor said in an afternoon Facebook Live address on March 23 in response to a question from a Mississippi resident, reported Nick Judin for the Jackson Free Press.

The next day Reeves went where no other governor has gone by issuing an executive order that preempted more restrictive COVID-19 containment measures issued by cities and counties in the state.

"The order seems to declare that most types of businesses in Mississippi are 'essential' and thus exempt from social-distancing requirements" that apply to nonessential businesses, writes Rudin in the source article. "The exhaustive list of exempt 'essential' businesses includes many industries and institutions both public and private." Department stores and "offices" are declared essential.

Rudin adds that his paper "has received reports from businesses in the Jackson area that have, as of today’s executive order, scuttled plans for work-from-home and ordered their employees back to work on-site."

"Reeves’ legal team designed the executive order to serve as a minimum standard for the state’s cities and counties, his office said on Wednesday," reports Adam Ganucheau who covers politics and state government for Mississippi Today.

But confusion subsequently abounded in town halls across the state as Reeves’ statewide order clashed with orders local governments had previously passed.

The executive order permits activities that the Mississippi State Department of Health recommends be suspended, such as dine-in restaurant service and church services.

Reeve's action drew the attention of The New York Times on Thursday and the scorn of Rachel Maddow on Wednesday night.

"I will just say this to the people of Mississippi. You should know that your government is breaking new ground when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic.

"The governor of your state today has pioneered a whole new kind of response to the pandemic in which he is legally blocking towns and cities in your state from doing a better job than he is in keeping you alive.

"He is undoing public health measures and insisting that the state will not have them."

Rudin reports on Thursday that "the state has 108 additional cases of COVID-19 as of yesterday, March 25, at 6 p.m. That brings the statewide total to 485, again breaking the record for most new cases reported in a single day. That is a 506.25% since the 80 cases reported less than a week ago on Friday."

According to the Mississippi State Department of Health, the death toll is six. The virus is present in most of the state's 82 counties.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020 in Jackson Free Press

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