Governor Tate Reeves declared a state of emergency on March 14 that ramps up Mississippi’s coordinated response across all levels of government and provides health officials and administrators with the necessary tools and guidance to combat the spread of COVID-19 in the state.
A state of emergency is an administrative tool that authorizes the use of state resources to aid in response and recovery efforts.
Local leadership quickly followed suit, declaring the COVID-19 coronavirus situation a local emergency as well.
The Mendenhall Mayor and Board of Aldermen called a special meeting on March 17 to discuss a local course of action to assist in containing the virus.
Emergency operations manager John Kilpatrick attended the meeting and gave a brief overview of the coronavirus and explained steps the state has taken to protect the population.
The virus has shown a steady increase in Mississippi as testing has become more available. The most vulnerable citizens to the disease remain those who are 65 and older or have underlying health conditions. Kilpatrick explained that several hospitals around the state are implementing protocols on how to handle the coronavirus.
The Mendenhall Board unanimously moved to declare a local emergency. Kilpatrick explained that this could possibly open up funds, and the city may be reimbursed for resources used to combat the pandemic.
The board delivered a detailed course of action as part of an effort to reduce the risk of spread of COVID-19. The Mendenhall Board of Aldermen released the following course of action until further notice:
The Mendenhall Library will be closed.
The city playground areas and city parks will be closed.
Organized sporting events will be postponed until further notice.
Rentals of meeting facilities will be suspended, and all events previously scheduled will be refunded and cancelled.
City Hall will remain operational during normal business hours (7 a.m.- 4 p.m.). City Hall staff will be available by telephone and emails to assist all citizens. If outside business is necessary, citizens are required to call first, and a staff member will assist them at their vehicle.
Water customers are encouraged to use the drop box located by the front door for payments or call City Hall and pay with a debit or credit card.
Lights at the sports facilities will be locked.
Mayor Todd Booth said, “This is something we have never seen before, but we will all work together to get through it.” Booth said city operations will continue to run as smoothly as possible.
City of Magee leadership also met to discuss a plan of action. Following some discussion the Magee Board of Aldermen released a three-phased plan for the city to execute as the COVID-19 crisis.
Magee officials released the following information:
PHASE 1 (No reported cases in Simpson County or the City of Magee):
Beginning immediately and effective until Friday, April 7th, 2020 -
• We will implement increased sanitary measures, including wiping down door handles and flat surfaces with disinfectant.
• The Magee Library and all City playground areas will be closed.
• Organized sporting events will be postponed.
• Rentals of meeting facilities will be suspended, all events previously scheduled will be refunded and cancelled.
• City Hall will remain open during normal business hours. Public access to City Hall is restricted to the front entrance. During this time all city departments will be fully staffed and will be available for communication via telephone and email during normal business hours.
• All transactions should be placed in the water payment drop box at the front entrance of the building. If a receipt is required by the payee, it should be requested in writing and placed in the drop box with the payment.
• Only “on duty” personnel should be present at both the Fire Department and the Police Department; all personnel who are “off duty” should not remain in these facilities.
• Police Officers should remain on patrol and not be present in the Police Department unless performing a necessary job task.
• All residents should read and adhere to the policies set forth by Magee General Hospital regarding seeking care and visiting the Emergency Department.
• Temperatures will be checked each morning by department heads. Employees will be sent home or asked to stay home if they are ill, and/or are presenting with symptoms.
• Employees will be encouraged to utilize our telemedicine services in lieu of face-to-face doctor visits.
• Outside workers (i.e.: maintenance, garbage, etc.) will continue their normal daily operations, paying special care to additional sanitary measures and maintain social distancing policies as set forth by the CDC.
PHASE 2 (Reported cases in Simpson County or the City of Magee):
• City Hall will remain closed to the public. Transactions will be accepted via the drop box or the front office window only.
• Employees working inside City Hall will be limited based on job duties.
• Employees who have the ability to work from home will do so.
• The Mayor and the Board of Aldermen will be responsible for making judgment calls about the operating hours of local businesses and other potential curfew/quarantine requirements.
PHASE 3 (Increased spread in the County and City (2 or more cases)):
• City Hall will remain closed to the public, only essential personnel will report to work inside City Hall. Payments and additional communications will only be accepted via the drop box on the front of the building.
• Outside workers will be limited to essential personnel only, garbage pickup will be limited to one day per week, per area. Only city employees will be allowed to work any city job, inmates will not be utilized.
• The Police Chief will be consulted by the Mayor and the Board regarding potential additional curfew requirements (individual, street, etc.) if necessary.
Simpson County had its first confirmed case of COVID-19 on March 21. This resulted in the city of Magee entering phase 2 of their plan. Mayor Dale Berry has set a city wide curfew of 11 p.m.-6 a.m. in an effort to keep citizens off the streets during that time. Berry said the emphasis was on foot traffic.
The Magee Mayor and Board of Aldermen will reevaluate the decision to lift the curfew at the next board meeting on April 7.