City and county officials have come down hard with new emergency guidelines that they think will stop the coronavirus from spreading in the community.
Mayor Chuck Espy led the city to enact a curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., stop gatherings of any kind over 10 people, close non-essential businesses and restrict travel. Espy’s lead was followed by Coahoma County Board of Supervisors President Johnny Newson who pushed through similar restrictions for the county.
“The curfew is designed to curb the spread of this disease,” said Espy. “I am asking all citizens to adhere to and observe a curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. each day. We will review this April 13 and it could be lifted before then or expanded.”
Newson read the city ordinance point by point at a special called meeting of the Board of Supervisors Monday.
“This is parallel to what we want to do,” said Newson. “I want us to discuss each one of these points and then we’ll put it into an order and hand it to the sheriff.”
Dist. 1 Supervisor Paul Pearson asked if gatherings of more than 10 people in a home fell under this new order.
“I think Item 2 addresses that,” said Newson. “All events of more than 10 people – funerals, weddings, parties, night clubs, church events.”
The county’s declaration specifically asked those 65 or older not to gather in a group of 10. It also bans county employees from traveling over 100 miles from Clarksdale and requires anyone who has been outside the country to self-quarantine for 14 days.
The city and county’s declaration said police and sheriff’s deputies will enforce the curfew and move against loitering at gas stations, restaurants, clubs and bars and city parks or open spaces at any time.
“From 10 p.m. in the evening to 5 a.m. the following morning, all persons – whether on foot or in or upon a vehicle -- shall be off the streets and out of the public places of the City of Clarksdale and shall shelter in place at their residences, whether temporary or permanent,” said Espy reading from the order. “We are asking anyone who is homeless to contact us (city) and we will contact local churches about finding a place to shelter.”
The declarations do allow for people to go to the grocery store, seek medical care or go to and from work.
Espy urged people to get a note from their employer and be ready to present that to authorities if they are stopped.
“This is a national emergency, a state emergency and a there has been a lot of talk of placing blame on the mayor,” said Espy. “The decision has been made and many say it is not needed. I am willing to take the blame.
“Let me say very clearly we can stop the spread of this virus if we work together,” he added. “If we can stop one person from getting sick and if we can save the life of one person, I say job well done.”
The order excludes senior city and county officials law enforcement and fire and rescue personnel.
Essential businesses allowed to remain open are medical facilities, including pharmacies, hospitals, clinics, and emergency and medical transportation services; Grocery stores; Express delivery services, such as FedEx, but not including Postmates, UberEats, and like food delivery services; and Security services, including those for non-essential businesses.
City, County shutdown
Mayor Chuck Espy and Board of Supervisors President Johnny Newson ordered a city-wide shutdown Thursday, March 19 in the wake of the coronavirus first being reported in Coahoma County.
“As of noon Thursday we are going to implement social distancing, the washing of hands and not allow gatherings of more than 10 people in one location,” said Espy. “That includes all spectrums, we’re talking about weddings, we’re talking about funerals and church gatherings."
Espy went on to say he was not asking any business to close, but they should start some kind of delivery service or curbside service that prevents more than 10 people in any one spot.
A proclamation issued by the city said this decision will be reviewed every 30 days. Espy said at the meeting the city and county would be updating it every two weeks and the emergency proclamation would last 45 days unless amended.
Espy said the city and county’s decision was based on guidelines from state and federal authorities.
Espy was vague when questioned about who would enforce the business ban and what the penalty might be for failure to comply.
“We are asking the citizens to do their part,” said Espy. “Like the President of the United States said, we must do our part, and (Clarksdale) must do our part to keep everyone else safe.”
The Coahoma County Health Department said Thursday they are not testing the public for the disease. The office is only open on Monday, Tuesday and Friday by appointment only.
Espy said those who think they may have the virus are being asked to contact their healthcare provider or doctor and not show up at the hospital. Espy said the hospital did have kits to test patients for the virus.
“Call your doctor first, we are not suggesting you rush to the hospital,” said Espy. “Call your doctor first and they will tell you how to proceed.”