(The following information comes from the City of Hattiesburg.)
- The sections of Governor Reeves’ Executive Order 1478 regarding state parks, municipal parks and outdoor recreational activities will stand without additional restrictions beginning May 7, at 8 a.m.
- While Gov. Reeves’ order provides a baseline for restaurants to open indoor/outdoor dining at 50% capacity beginning Thursday, it continues to give municipalities the ability to use local data and provide for more stringent regulations - should they be needed.
- Due to the surge in numbers in Forrest County, Mayor Barker’s Executive Order 2020-5’s provisions for restaurants to provide service by curbside, delivery or take-out only remain in effect. Seating at facilities will remain closed.
- Mayor Barker will continue to discuss local data with the medical community and restaurant owners to address plans for next week – with the hope that the numbers level off or drop.
- Yesterday’s charts indicating ICU/Hospitalization #s and the 5-Day Average for Forrest/Lamar Counties are attached.
- Mayor Barker’s full statement can be accessed below.
From Mayor Toby Barker:
On the heels of Governor Reeves’ decision this Tuesday regarding restaurants, I have spent the last 36 hours speaking with dozens of restaurant owners and conferring with our medical leaders on the front lines dealing with COVID-19. I have also closely followed our own local testing and hospitalization data.
I want restaurants open. The owners and establishments they have built are more than eateries. They are economic drivers. They are institutions in our community, and many of them have taken massive losses to investments and livelihoods since this pandemic began. That isn’t lost on me, and quite frankly – it keeps me up at night.
However, I can’t ignore the surge we are seeing in our own community:
• on the Forrest County side, our 5-day average of new positive cases is at an all-time high; at first it appeared we peaked in mid-April, but many of those numbers are being surpassed
• this week, we have more people in the ICU for COVID-positive patients than ever before
• 8 of the 18 COVID-related deaths in Forrest County have happened in the last 8 days
For these reasons, we will delay the opening of dining rooms and outdoor eating spaces in restaurants.
We will monitor Hattiesburg’s data through the weekend. While I understand that no action we take will automatically bring down infection rates in the next few days, I do think it will afford us an opportunity to see where these numbers go. We hope that numbers level off or start to fall. If that occurs, some type of communal dining could happen next week.
I know that I cannot affect every element of how and to whom this disease spreads or does not spread in our community. For a mayor, that’s a very helpless feeling. However, we do need to be willing to make rational decisions on when not to make an unsteady situation potentially worse.
As we reopen our city, we will continue prioritizing public health while giving our businesses the space to operate creatively. With more interaction happening with one another, we will take actions to try and reduce the risk of community transmission.
I recognize this is a balance. Trust me, I do.
We will continue to dialogue with our restaurants on how to move forward. We are working on updated safety and cleanliness guidelines that will follow the governor’s executive order, the CDC and other best practices. We have amazing leaders in our restaurant sector, and their resilience throughout this disappointing time is a testament to their strength and goodness. Please continue to support them with takeout and delivery options this week.