Supervisors take additional actions; mandate 10 patrons per business

Published 1:54 pm Saturday, March 21, 2020


Compelled by reports that cases of coronavirus in Mississippi have exponentially increased – almost tripling overnight according to state reports – the Panola County Board of Supervisors has issued a mandate that severely restricts the service of prepared food and limits the number of customers allowed in any business at one time.

For food service, supervisors are banning all in-facility dining. This also includes all deli-style food counters that are popular in many convenience stores and gas stations. In short, no restaurant without a drive-thru window, or a system to provide for curbside service whereby the patron would not enter the facility, may sell prepared food county-wide.

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This order also includes food trucks and small proprietors of common food sales, such as hot tamales and crawfish.

The president of the board of supervisors has purportedly spoken to all mayors of municipalities in the county and has their full support. Batesville Mayor Jerry Autrey has also called a special meeting of the board of aldermen for 3 p.m., to advise his board of the latest development.

The second part of the mandate is the one that will likely cause the most discussion and possible pushback from some citizens and business owners.

Acknowledging that the public will have a need to obtain necessities in the foreseeable future during a time of uncertainty, where the only thing known for a fact is that the least amount of human contact is the most effective counter balance for a spreading virus, all businesses should immediately begin to self-enforce the 10 patrons per building, not to include the store’s staff.

This will effectively mean that Piggly Wiggly, Kroger, Sav-a-Lot, Wal Mart, Dollar General, Family Dollar, and similar stores must immediately take notice of the mandate and participate with a spirit of cooperation  in the board of supervisors’ effort.

In anticipation of resistance to these mandates, the Sheriff’s Department has pledged to enforce the directives if ordered to do so. Sheriff Shane Phelps said he has instructed deputies to be patient with all citizens, but his department will follow the Board of Supervisors’ wishes.

Board president Cole Flint talked to the other supervisors by telephone in an emergency meeting about 1 p.m. Saturday in the presence of local media and they agreed to the measures.

Contacted by the newspaper about the mandates, board attorney Gaines Baker said he understands the supervisors’ action noting that in his opinion “in emergency cases such as this any measures taken to prevent the spread of this virus and thereby insure public health to the best of their ability override any inconvenience that may occur so long as the public can have reasonable access to necessities.”

Baker further pointed out that in regions of the nation where human interaction has been restricted, as in California, the curve has flattened. It’s obvious that this is the best course of action for Panola County, supervisors believe.