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Businesses and operations defined as essential exempt a huge swath of Mississippians from COVID-19 social distancing



First responders such as Vicksburg Police are exempt from COVID-19 social distancing guidelines. (photo by David Day)

The governor’s latest executive order during the COVID-19 crises ordered all Mississippians to avoid social gathering of more than 10 people.

The order went on to say that certain operations and businesses were exempt from the order, including “airports, medical and health-care facilities, retail shopping including grocery and department stores, offices, factories and other manufacturing facilities or any Essential Business or Operation.”

So exactly what is an essential business or operation? As it turns out, that designation is very broad and includes everything from grocery stores, Uber drivers, lawyers and accountants to first responders and oil rig workers.

Here is how the executive order defined them:

  • Essential Government functions including public safety and first responders, law enforcement, fire prevention and response, courts and court personnel, military, emergency management personnel, corrections, probation and parole, child protection, child welfare, EMTs, 911 call center employees, all workers and vendors that support law enforcement and emergency management operations and services;
  • Essential healthcare operations including hospitals/clinics, research and laboratory operations, nursing homes, residential health care facilities, congregate care facilities, assisted living facilities, elder care, medical wholesale and distribution, home health workers and aides, medical supply and equipment manufacturers and providers, medical waste disposal, hazardous waste disposal, other ancillary healthcare services;
  • Essential infrastructure including utilities including power generation, nuclear facilities, utility poles and components, fuel and transmission, petroleum producers, suppliers and distributors, supply chain companies, telecommunications, electronic security and life safety services, wireless communication, communications sales and customer support, telecommunication and data centers, cybersecurity operations, flood control, operation of dams, aviation, airports, ports, roads and highways, mass transit, automotive sales and repair, vehicle rental services, taxi and network providers (such as Uber and Lyft), freight and passenger rail, pipelines, transportation infrastructure, public water and waste water, hazardous waste disposal, hotels and commercial lodging services;
  • Manufacturing including food processing and production, pharmaceuticals, food additives, medical equipment, medical devices and supplies, technology, biotechnology, chemical products, telecommunications products, automotive production and suppliers, healthcare, energy, steel and steel products, fuel and petroleum exploration and production, lubricants, greases and engine oils, mining, national defense, sanitary and cleaning products, household products, personal care products, products used by any other Essential Business or Operation;
  • Agriculture and farms including food cultivation, livestock, cattle, poultry and seafood operations, livestock auctions, feedlots, dealers and brokers of livestock, livestock transporters, farmer’s markets, feed stores, repair of agricultural equipment, gas, diesel and petroleum suppliers, aquaculture, horticulture, chemicals including pesticides, herbicides and fertilizer, producers and distributors, forest products businesses, including those involved in forestry operations, logging, manufacture of lumber and paper products, meat processing facilities, rendering facilities and transporters, feed processing facilities, veterinary services;
  • Essential retail including all supermarkets, food and beverage stores, food providers, convenience stores, pharmacies, hardware and building materials, gas stations, restaurants or bars (but only to the extent that (1) not more than 10 people are gathered in such restaurants or bars in a single space at the same time where individuals are in seated or otherwise in close proximity to each other or (2) for curb side pick-up, carryout or delivery);
  • Essential services including trash collection, mail and shipping services, home repair, automotive sales and repair, warehouse, distribution and fulfillment centers, laundromats/laundry service;
  • Media including newspapers, digital news sites, television, radio and other media services;
  • Education including educators supporting public and private K-12 schools, colleges and universities, educational institutions, for purposes of facilitating distance learning, performing critical research or other essential functions including public schools preparing and transporting free and reduced meals to eligible students within their respective districts (this Executive Order is consistent with and does not amend or supersede Executive Order No. 1460 regarding public schools);
  • Financial services including banks and related financial institutions, insurance, payroll, accounting, processing financial transactions, services related to financial markets;
  • Professional services including legal services, accounting services, insurance services, real estate services (including appraisal and title services);
  • Providers of basic necessities to economically disadvantaged populations including businesses, religious and secular non-profit organizations, food banks, foster care, homeless shelters and congregate care facilities;
  • Construction and construction related services including building and construction, lumber, building materials and hardware, electricians, plumbers, exterminators, cleaning and janitorial, HV ACR and water heating industry, painting, moving and relocating services, other skilled trades, and other related construction firms and professionals for maintaining essential infrastructure;
  • Essential services necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation and essential operations of residences and essential businesses and essential business operations, including law enforcement, fire prevention and response, firearm and ammunition manufacturers and retailers, building code enforcement, security, emergency management and response, building cleaning including disinfection, automotive sales and repair, mortuaries and cemeteries;
  • Defense Industrial Base including employers and personnel who support the essential products and services required to meet national security commitments to the Federal Government and the U. S. Military, including personnel working for companies and their subcontractors, who perform under contract to the Department of Defense providing materials and services to the Department of Defense and government-owned/contractor operated and government-owned/government-operated facilities.
  • Vendors that provide essential services or products, including logistics and technology support, child care programs and services, medical waste disposal, hazardous waste disposal, services needed to ensure the continuing operation of Essential Business or Operation, operation of government agencies, and to provide for the health, safety and welfare of the public;
  • Religious entities including religious and faith-based facilities, entities and groups, religious gatherings provided that they adhere to the CDC and the Mississippi Department of Health recommendations and guidance to prevent the spread of COVID-19;
  • Categories of workers and related industries identified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) in its “Memorandum on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19 Response” as it may be amended,
  • Other categories as may be identified and deemed essential by the Mississippi Department of Health, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and/or other appropriate agency of the State of Mississippi.


Amendment to Vicksburg’s Civil Emergency Plan released March 29 – full text





WHEREAS, March 16, 2020, the City of Vicksburg adopted Phase 1 Recommendations and Policy and Procedures for the safety of Vicksburg citizens and City employees and to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and;

WHEREAS, on March 16, 2020, City of Vicksburg and Warren County adopted a Joint Emergency Resolution regarding the pandemic COVID-19; and

WHEREAS, on March 18, 2020, the City of Vicksburg adopted the City of Vicksburg’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Civil Emergency Plan to address payment of essential and non-essential employees; and

WHEREAS, on March 22, 2020, effective March 23, 2020, pursuant to §§45-17-1 through 45-17-13 of the Mississippi Code of 1972, and as amended, entitled Civil Emergencies, the Mayor proclaimed that a Civil Emergency existed and declared that extraordinary measures must be taken to protect the public health, safety and welfare; and

WHEREAS, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) that has spread across this nation is a worldwide pandemic and as of March 29, 2020, the Mississippi Department of Health has reported 758 confirmed cases and 14 deaths in Mississippi; and

WHEREAS, the Mississippi Department of Health and the CDC have advised all citizens to practice social distancing which is staying at least 6 feet apart from one another; and

WHEREAS, the President of the United States, the CDC, the Governor of Mississippi and the Mississippi Health Department have recommended that gatherings of more than 10 people be avoided; and

WHEREAS, extraordinary measures related to the spread of the Coronavirus are necessary for the health, safety, welfare and good order to protect the public.




  1. Social distancing should be enforced throughout the City – stay at least 6 feet away from
  2. Anyone 65 years or older, or anyone with underlying medical conditions, should not be in or near gatherings of over 10
  3. After visiting a location where the virus is verified to be present, a person should not go into crowds and should practice social
  4. Precautions at any gathering or business should include proper hand hygiene, social distancing and enhanced ventilation (HVAC/open windows).
  5. Persons shall not visit hospitals, nursing homes and retirement homes or long-term care facilities unless to provide critical assistance, to visit residents receiving imminent end-of-life care, or as otherwise directed by the healthcare facility, provided in the professional opinion of the supervising physician or other supervising healthcare professional at such facility that such visits can be accomplished without unreasonable risk to staff or other residents of such facilities. In lieu of in-person visits, electronic visits are encouraged.
  6. All daycare facilities shall close at 12:00 noon on Monday, March 30, 2020 until April 6, 2020. The closure will be re-evaluated on or before April 6, 2020.
  7. A city-wide curfew will be strictly enforced from 11:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m. Persons should not be on the public street or in any public place unless it is for traveling to or from work or for medical personnel in the performance of their duties, or to a business that is open such as grocery store or gas station. First Responders and law enforcement are exempt from this
  8. During this emergency, funeral services are recommended to be held outside at grave side with a limit of 25 persons, and social distancing should be practiced. Alternatively, funerals are recommended to be on the property of a funeral home or in the City of Vicksburg Auditorium. Funeral services held inside shall be limited to 10 persons, and social distancing should be practiced. Regardless of the location, all funeral services shall be at 11:00 a.m. or 2:00 m. through April 6, 2020. Use of the City Auditorium will allow space for social distancing and will be available for funerals at no cost during this civil emergency. Any repast or other meal will not be allowed at the City Auditorium.
  9. Most places that have public assembly such as theaters, churches and religious entities, places of entertainment, and other places where the public gathers from time to time have already adopted policies of closing or limiting the number of persons allowed inside at the same time. There should not be gatherings of more than 10 people at an
  10. Bars, nightclubs, lounges, taverns shall close, except to the extent that such establishments may only provide take-out, pick-up, delivery, or drive-through services for food as allowed by law. Restaurants and private clubs shall close dine-in services, but may provide pick-up, curbside service, delivery, or drive-through services for food as allowed by law. There shall not be more 10 employees and 10 customers inside abovementioned businesses at any one time. These establishments must close by 11:00 p.m. and remain closed until 5:00 p.m.
  11. Retail and convenience stores shall allow no more than 10 persons inside the store and no more than 10 persons in the parking lot/gas service areas of the premises at any one time.
  12. Liquor stores shall have no more than 10 persons, including employees, inside at any one time.
  13. Barber and beauty shops, nail and tanning salons, and spas shall close at 12:00 noon on Monday, March 30, 2020 until April 6, 2020. The closure will be re-evaluated on or before April 6, 2020.
  14. Meals for seniors (65 and over), vulnerable adults and handicapped adults, will be available at the Salvation Army on Monday, March 30 and Tuesday, March 31, for curb-side pick-up, and at the Vicksburg Convention Center Wednesday, April 1 – Friday, April 3. Curb-side pick-up will be available at these locations between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Photo ID confirming 65 or older must be provided.
  15. For any City of Vicksburg public meetings, Zoning Board of Appeals, Board of Architectural Review, code enforcement hearings, or public gatherings in a city building, there will be no more than 10 people in the room and social distancing shall be practiced. For meetings of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, the Mayor will determine which 10 people will be permitted to be present, giving priority to Division Heads and the Deputy City Clerk. A Vicksburg Police Officer will escort people in and out as needed. Alternate viewing options include online streaming, VTV channels, and the City of Vicksburg training room (no more than 10 people). This policy will be re-evaluated on or before April 17,
  16. The measures detailed in this Proclamation (other than those referring to places that are venues of public assembly) apply only to the specific businesses listed.
  17. Violations of this Proclamation will be subject to misdemeanor prosecution pursuant to Sec. 45- 17-9 of the Mississippi Code of 1972, as amended, and Sec. 1-9 of the Code of Ordinances of the City of Vicksburg, Mississippi, including a fine of up to $1,000.00 and 90 days in


  1. Division Heads have designated the essential and non-essential employees for their respective departments. The following applies through April 6, 2020:

All employees who have been designated essential are expected to report to work unless any COVID-19 symptoms or confirmed cases affect them or their household or they have a school-aged child that is out of school.

All employees designated non-essential may rotate work every 2 days if required by their supervisor.

Hourly employees who are designated as essential employees and come to work will be paid time and a half for actual hours worked. Non-essential hourly employees who rotate in to work will be paid time and a half for actual hours worked. There will be no exchange of hours worked by employees unless approved by the Division Head. Salaried employees will be paid their regular salaries.

  1. A $500,000 personnel budget will be deducted from the $3 Million reserve fund, if
  2. All police personnel should take proper precautions, such as wearing gloves, when making physical contact with the
  3. Every city-owned restroom will be checked for sufficient amounts of soap and/or hand sanitizer, and paper towels each hour of the workday through April 6. This policy will be re-evaluated on or before April
  4. The City of Vicksburg Senior Center will remain closed through April 6. The closure will be re- evaluated on or before April
  5. The City of Vicksburg is suspending water and gas customer disconnects as required by the Mississippi Public Service Commission. The City will follow the guidelines of the MPSC which currently prohibit disconnects until May 14, 2020.
  6. All City-funded employee travel for any distance over 100 miles outside of Vicksburg is suspended, unless deemed necessary by the Mayor, until April 13, 2020. The city-funded travel suspension policy will be re-evaluated on or before April 13,
  7. Any city employee, or family member within their household, who comes in contact with a person confirmed to have the virus is to immediately report it to the City of Vicksburg Safety Director Steve Williams (601.738.0029) or the Human Resources Department (601.631.3710). This policy will be revaluated on or before April 13, 2020.
  8. The City of Vicksburg is relaxing its dress code policy to provide for the comfort of its employees through April 6, 2020. This policy will be re-evaluated on or before April 6,



THIS THE         DAY OF                                 2020.





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Dr. Daniel Edney Q&A on COVID-19: ‘Use some good Mississippi common sense’



Dr Daniel Edney (photo from the Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure)

Dr. Daniel Edney is one of ten physicians serving on Mississippi’s COVID-19 coronavirus task force. He also practices here in town at Medical Associates of Vicksburg, specializing in in internal medicine.

“We must flatten the curve to stem the tide of this virus,” Edney told the Vicksburg Daily News in a previous interview. At that time, he emphasized that people must start taking COVID-19 seriously. He remains adamant that all of us must do what we can to follow social-distancing and hygiene guidelines to stem the numbers of COVID-19 infections.

“It will get worse before it gets better,” he wrote in an email, “but it is going to get better.”

We followed up with Dr. Edney this past weekend, and he requested we email him our questions. He provided a great deal of valuable information and some good news about the pandemic as well.

The questions and his responses are below, lightly edited for clarity.

Q. Since we last spoke, what developments have you seen here locally and on the state level that you can share?

A. Obviously, the cases statewide have increased as have deaths as we expected but remember, the numbers released every day currently are five to seven-days old and really show where we were a week ago. The MSDH is getting more aggressive with offensive measures including legal quarantine orders in areas that are the hottest right now like Desoto County. I anticipate more such measures in the coming week.

Good news is that South Korea appears to be stabilizing their outbreak through aggressive testing and containment strategies. It appears they MAY have passed their apex as has China, if we can believe what they report. Italy continues to worsen and leads the way for European countries that are all still escalating in cases and deaths.

Q. Testing has ramped up around the state, and the University of Mississippi Medical Center is now testing. Can you expound on this?

A: UMMC was approved to do in-house testing of an already commercially available test that will allow them to do 180 tests per day with a one-day turnaround rather than five to nine days we have now, but this will be for the tests that UMMC will be running on “UMMC intensive care units, UMMC inpatients, and UMMC employees.” I suspect that they will work to build capacity to run the samples from the drive-through test sites they are doing around the state but not at this time.

Testing has ramped up since we can now use our regular commercial lab partners rather than the state public health lab, which has been swamped. We have still been instructed as of last Friday to continue to test only those who are symptomatic and preferably with fever and higher risk factors. As testing continues to improve, I believe that we’ll be able to expand our testing, but it is very important that practicing physicians follow the recommendation of our public health experts and conduct our testing as advised.

Q. Approximately how many tests have you and your associates sent out. Is there additional information obtained? We are trying to ascertain what the identifying criteria is for how cases are counted by county.

A. Our clinic is following the Health Dept. recommendation of screening the patients using tele-medicine technology from home so that we are not bringing patients to the clinics unnecessarily. Those who have low risk symptoms and no fever are being monitored at home, and those with higher risk symptoms and especially fever are being brought in using full isolation to be tested. Remember, if you are tested then you need to isolate.

Last week our clinic did about 30 tests, and I expect that to increase significantly this week. Also, Abbott Labs has been approved to produce and sell a point-of-care test just like the current flu test that we will be able to use in our clinics and finally have immediate results. Once this is available, I suspect the restrictions on testing will relax. We are evaluating everyone who calls in concerned and testing everyone who meets the current criteria, but this is a fluid situation and constantly changing on us.

Q. Have you hospitalized anyone? Obviously, you can’t violate HIPPA guidelines, but can you give us some demographic information in a general sense.

A. The Health Dept. is the better source for that. I can tell you that the patient at Promise is showing steady improvement and not requiring a ventilator.

Q. In our previous conversation you indicated that you felt that the mortality rate may be higher worldwide that what is being cited by the World Health Organization (3.4%).

A. The best news of all for us is that so far, the U.S. mortality rate is about half of what we anticipated at about 1% to 1.5% whereas we were seeing 2% to 4% in other countries. That is still much worse than the flu, which is usually 0.1%, and still requires aggressive public health action to keep our deaths as low as possible.

Newest info this morning has our U.S. mortality rate at 1.7%. Still much lower than we feared.

Q. The situation in our neighboring state of Louisiana has grown substantially. How concerned are you about the virus spreading from there?

A. New Orleans especially is bad and getting worse. It is requiring many of the measures currently being employed in New York. Clearly, we are seeing spillage of cases over into Gulf Coast counties and Southwest Mississippi including Natchez. We have seen the one case for us that appears to have been related to New Orleans.

We are treating our Louisiana patients by tele-medicine to allow them to remain under their state lock-down order, and I believe that order is protecting us on this side of the river as fewer people are traveling back and forth compared to usual. Certainly, we do advise our patients not to travel to Louisiana if at all possible and stay out of New Orleans and Baton Rouge. However, if you’re watching the state’s numbers, our biggest risk in Vicksburg is related to the Metro Jackson area which is much closer to us with increasing patient counts, although nothing like New Orleans. We do advise everyone to limit their travel to the Jackson area to only that which is essential.

Q. There are numerous rumors about usage of aspirin, Aleve, etc. What do you recommend?

A. All the information we have regarding medicines that may be good or bad are coming from countries hit earlier than we were and from those states first hit—and are all anecdotal. I am reading from American doctors in the hot zones a mixed message on all of it.

At this point, we are being told that anti-inflammatories like Motrin are probably OK, and to follow your doctor’s advice. The hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin combination MAY help, but proper controlled studies are just now beginning, and that will answer these questions. We also do have a few antivirals that are currently being studied and showing promise, and the vaccine is progressing rapidly and so far, so good. It will become our most powerful weapon when it is eventually deployed.

Q. We continue to hear that there is not enough personal protective equipment. People have started to make homemade masks. Can you give your thoughts on this?

A: Merit Health River Region and Promise both have adequate supplies of PPE, but all of our supplies are limited. We also need PPE in our clinics, nursing homes and for first responders. Currently, virtually everything being produced is going to New York, the West Coast and New Orleans where the need is desperate. We are having to be careful not to waste what we have and are working to make our supplies last. We are praying that the ramping up of PPE production will take care of us but currently, that is one of our unknowns.

Please understand that every patient tested as an outpatient consumes some of our PPE, and this is another reason why we must be careful with testing. If you have a loved one that is on the front lines in our hospitals, would you rather we use PPE for them in the highest risk areas or to test someone who thinks they might could possibly have it who has a mild sore throat and no fever? PPE is currently a valuable resource for our health-care system and must be managed appropriately.

Other good news is that we currently have plenty of ICU and ventilator capacity and are being told that we can double our capacity statewide, including ventilators, tomorrow if needed. Plans are under way to have COVID-19 only facilities, especially for convalescence for those stable enough to leave the hospital but not ready to go home (if it comes to that), and our experts at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are able to re-purpose facilities if needed, as we are seeing in Louisiana and New York. They truly are doing amazing work.

It’s important to know that we are not at our apex and likely will not reach it for another two to four weeks, and that it’s very important to follow the restrictions that our state, city and county officials have put into place. It will get worse before it gets better.

One of the most important new restrictions is not to be in retail areas with more than 10 people. That is one of the remaining high-risk areas we had left with restaurants and churches already doing their part. We are wanting all HIGH RISK people to truly shelter in place until well after the apex, and you can see what that means at the website. It basically means stay at home with as little outside personal contact as possible. That takes some preparation and planning to achieve. If you love someone in that category, then make this happen. And everyone: follow the restrictions to help protect our most vulnerable neighbors.

It will get worse before it gets better, but it is going to get better. This too shall pass, and remember that God is in control and not this virus—but He does expect us to listen and use some good Mississippi common sense.

For more information, please visit the MSDH website.


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Reeves is not ending liquor sales in Mississippi



A social media meme is making the rounds claiming that Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves will be ending all liquor sales as of 3 p.m. today, March 30.

This is not true, as confirmed by the governor in a Facebook post: “As we fight the spread of this virus, we are also fighting the spread of disinformation. Please check credible sources like your local news or government offices for accurate info. We are not banning the sale of alcohol. Stay home. Stay safe.”

Liquor stores, similar to restaurants and bars, are not “essential” based on the list released by Mississippi in a recent executive order.

Regardless of whether you agree with that designation, it does mean some liquor stores may have closed their doors to walk-in customers.

Similar to restaurants, some liquor stores are offering curbside pickup service. If you’re uncertain whether your favorite liquor store is open, call ahead.

For information on which businesses and services have been designated essential, click here.

Updated to include Gov. Reeves Facebook response.

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