Mississippi's GOP governor overrode local coronavirus measures, reopening some restaurants and classifying businesses like gun stores as 'essential'

Mississippi governor Tate Reeves Donald Trump

Leah Mills/Reuters

Then-candidate for Mississippi governor Tate Reeves with President Donald Trump in November 2019.

  • The governor of Mississippi signed an executive order that effectively overrides the coronavirus safety responses previously enacted by other officials.
  • Gov. Tate Reeves' order, signed Tuesday, classed businesses including gun shops, department stores and real estate offices as "essential." It urged employees to work from home "where feasible," but also underlined that a vast list of businesses were "critical."
  • It also advised citizens to avoid gatherings of more than ten people, but said "this does not apply" to places like offices, airports, and grocery and department stores.
  • Reeves has repeatedly encouraged working from home and social distancing but has resisted calls for more stringent measures.
  • He said Monday: "Mississippi's never going to be China," according to the Jackson Free Press, likely referring to stringent lockdown measures in large parts of China.
  • Reeves' Tuesday executive order has led to businesses in the Jackson area to reverse their home working plans, according to the Jackson Free Press reported.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The governor of Mississippi has issued an executive order overriding all previous coronavirus responses in the state, and classifying a wide range of businesses including gun shops, department stores, and real estate offices as "essential."

Executive Order 1463, issued by Republican Gov. Tate Reeves, declared that businesses such as gun shops, real estate offices, home repair services, banks, mass transit, and Uber and Lyft cars were essential.

Reeves closed public schools on March 19, and declared a state of emergency on March 23. As of Thursday, Mississippi has recorded 377 cases and five deaths of the virus, according to The Guardian.

The executive order, issued on Tuesday, urged employees to work from home "where feasible," but also underlined that a vast list of types of business were still "critical" to maintaining community, public health, and the economy.

The order advised citizens to avoid gatherings of more than ten people, but added that "this does not apply" to a list of places including offices, airports, and grocery and department stores.

The order overrides a raft of public-health responses that had previously been called for or enacted by authorities below the state level.

It said: "Any order, rule, regulation or action by any governing body, agency or political subdivision of the state that imposes any additional freedom of movement or social distancing limitations on Essential Business or Operation, restricts scope of services or hours of operation of any Essential Business or Operation, or which will or might in any way conflict with or impede the purpose of this Executive Order is suspended and unenforceable during this COVID-19 State of Emergency."

Jackson Medical Mall in mississippi

Google Maps

Jackson Medical Mall in Mississippi.

On March 20, the Mississippi State Department of Health had recommended that restaurants suspend all dine-in service, the Jackson Free Press reported.

Local governments of Aberdeen, Wayne County, Cleveland, Moss Point, Lowndes County, and the town of Boyle had all followed suit with the ban.

Reeves' order now allows restaurants and bars to continue serving dine-in customers, provided they ensure appropriate distancing, with no more than ten people at a time.

Several towns had also issued evening curfews, which as a restriction on freedom of movement may now be superseded by Reeves' order if they prevent "essential" businesses - like taxi and delivery services - operating at those times.

On March 16, Mayor Chokwe Lumumba of Jacksonville, closed several civic buildings including the city hall, the Jackson Free Press reported.

But as the executive order exempted offices from having to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people, the mayor may have to reopen the buildings. It is not yet clear.

Many businesses in the Jackson area has also canceled their work from home orders, the Jackson Free Press reported.

Reeves has largely encouraged social distancing on a mainly voluntary and discretionary basis, and in a Wednesday Facebook post urged businesses to "allow every worker that can to work from home."

He has, however, resisted calls for a strict statewide lockdown - similar to those enacted in some parts of China, which appears to be nearing the end of its outbreak.

Reeves told a Facebook Live session on Monday: "Mississippi's never going to be China. Mississippi's never going to be North Korea," reported the Jackson Free Press.

Reeves was also described as "untroubled" by the coronavirus by MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on Tuesday, a characterization he called "a dangerous lie" in a Facebook post.

"Because we pray and reject dictatorship models like China they say we are 'untroubled,' undermining our warnings and pleas to stay home," he insisted.

Get the latest coronavirus analysis and research from Business Insider Intelligence on how COVID-19 is impacting businesses.

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