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Batesville curfew ending Monday; stores will be allowed stay open later

Batesville’s citywide curfew established two weeks ago by the Mayor and Board of Aldermen will be lifted at 8 a.m. Monday. This comes after Gov. Tate Reeves relaxed the state’s shelter in place order to a stay at home mandate, also effective Monday morning.

Soon after the Governor’s order was signed Friday afternoon, Batesville Mayor Jerry Autrey called a special meeting and asked his board to consider following Reeve’s lead and relax some of the orders issued locally in theĀ  effort to prevent coronavirus infections in the city.

Since the statewide order on April 1, the Governor and local boards around Mississippi have passed several measures ranging from curfews to occupancy restrictions. In Batesville, the city board has followed the Governor’s order line for line, mostly, with a few additions.

New cases of infection are running between 175-300 a day in Mississippi, confirmed cases of coronavirus reported in Panola County has only increased by two or three in the past week. The county, so far, has only had 38 confirmed cases (as of Friday at 6 p.m.) and two deaths.

On Friday, the board voted to follow the executive order from Jackson, with two exceptions – factories and daycares in the city will remain under their special guidelines until further notice.

Alderman Teddy Morrow said he believes there will be less confusion among citizens if Batesville operates under the state order, plus the extra rules for industry and daycares, for the duration of the pandemic-fighting effort.

With the lifting of the curfew on Monday, all retail stores not specifically closed by the Governor’s order will be allowed to stay open their regular hours, and not be subject to the 5-customers per business rule that has become the norm in Batesville in the past few weeks.

Batesville officials enacted the curfew at the suggestion of Police Chief Jimmy McCloud, who said patrol officers needed the backing of the board to help keep citizens off the streets and abiding by the Governor’s shelter in place order.

In subsequent actions the board extended the curfew an hour, from 10 p.m. to 9 p.m., and ordered all businesses to close at 9 p.m., except for truck stops with full restroom facilities, including showers.

McCloud pushed for that move on the recommendation from the coronavirus committee (made up of county and city officials) when it appeared Panola County was reaching a point locally when the risk of coronavirus transmission person-to-person was at its most dangerous.

Police in Batesville have written just two tickets for the violation of the Governor’s shelter in place and the local curfew orders. One restaurant was cited for allowing customers to come inside the building while waiting for carryout orders, and the other for allowing customers to come through their drive-thru to pick up orders. That store actually closed at 9 p.m., but had to finish preparing orders made by customers, and paid for, using internet and phone applications.

McCloud said the people of Batesville could be commended for cooperating with officials and adhering to the 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew. There were a few warnings issued, but no citations written to citizens during the curfew period. “There was a little grumbling, but I think everyone realized that this was not done to hurt anybody or any business. It was was purely for the health and safety of the citizens of Batesville,” he said.

Still closed for in-facility service are restaurants, who may continue to have curbside or drive-thru service. Hair salons, barber shops, fitness centers, and personal grooming businesses must remain closed under the stay at home order, which will be in effect through May 11, the Governor said. Those places may still sell inventory in the same curbside manner that restaurants follow.

The state order retains the ban on social gatherings of more than 10 people in one place, meaning church congregations in Batesville are not permitted to meet again this week, although several churches located in Panola County, but outside the city limits, have services planned for Sunday, April 26.

All business in Batesville that are open must adhere to a 50 percent occupancy guideline, as set by each municipality’s fire department and calculated by square footage by the state fire marshal. Batesville retailers were operating under a 25 percent occupancy guideline except for stores under 4,000 sq. feet, who were limited to 10, then 5, customers per store.

At Friday’s meeting, Autrey said he is now comfortable with the state’s 50 percent rule for all Batesville businesses. “I wish all of our businesses could open today, but for the safety of our people we have to follow the recommendations from the Governor,” he said.

All daycares, for children and adults alike, operating in the city must continue to follow the board’s guidelines, among which is daily temperature checks and recording of that data, and specific instructions about shutting down for cleaning and disinfecting if any employee, or customer, tests positive for COVID-19.

Local manufacturing facilities must also perform and record employee temperatures before each shift, and commit to cleaning and disinfecting standards should any employee test positive for the virus.

Batesville officials first required industry to perform temperature checks at the beginning and ending of each shift, and show proof that facilities with positive COVID-19 cases be closed for professional cleaning.

Aldermen relaxed those guidelines last week when industry leaders told officials the requirement for two temperature checks was causing lines to back-up with employees delayed entering and leaving their work spaces. Additionally, industry managers asked the board to rescind the language of their original order requiring that factories to professionally cleaned, to allow for in-house cleaning with the condition that all CDC guidelines were followed.

Industry leaders said the cost of professional “fogging” of facilities, the most accepted system to kill the coronavirus on every surface, was cost prohibitive at approximately 20 cents per square foot, and would force some factories to close if that cost was incurred more than once.

Aldermen agreed to the less-stringent guidelines, and have begun to consider a step-down plan for local factories, as the rate of infections in the Batesville trade area continues to decline.

Follow this link to read a timeline of executive orders issued by Gov. Reeves since the the outbreak of the pandemic in Mississippi.

Executive Orders relating to COVID-19