A new emergency order handed down by the Sunflower County Board of Supervisors on Monday adds the extra bite of a financial penalty for those not complying with Governor Tate Reeves' recent executive order affecting Sunflower County along with a dozen others.
The new measure was supposedly put in place in the hope of helping to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Joining the ranks of other counties and municipalities across the state and nation, Sunflower County lawmakers issued an emergency declaration that inflicts a fine of up to $1,000 and/or misdemeanor charges on violators.
During Monday's session, the lawmakers unanimously approved the order, which goes into effect immediately citing “a condition of extreme peril to life and property does now exist in Sunflower County.”
The motion for adoption was made by District 1 Supervisor Glenn Donald and seconded by District 4 Supervisor Anthony Clark and it referenced guidelines spelled out in the governor's July 10 executive order 1507, which imposed the tighter restrictions due to higher numbers of cases in the county in shorter periods of time.
Because of the virus, a state of emergency has existed in the county since the lawmakers instituted it in March and it continues. The new document indicates that a continued spread of the virus at the current rate will eventually overload the county's hospitals.
Additionally, it stresses the importance of all persons and businesses within the county taking measures to thwart the spread of the virus including the suggested hand-washing regimen, safe-distancing and isolation of those who are ill, plus wearing face coverings in public and avoiding unnecessary contact with people.
Like Reeves' executive order 1507, which stated that Sunflower County is among those identified as regions that are at higher risk of transmission of COVID-19 and required to abide by stricter health and safety measures, the county lawmakers' declaration addresses gatherings and all businesses with additional provisions for retail establishments.
Mirroring Reeve's guidelines, in Sunflower County all businesses are to practice social distancing, send any sick employees home, encourage sick employees to stay home, separate and send employees home who appear to have respiratory illness symptoms, establish hand-washing and personal hygiene protocols and screen employees daily for COVID-related symptoms at the beginning of their shifts and the screening is also governed by the responses to questions related to contact with others who may have the virus.
In addition to those guidelines, retail businesses are to make sure that any employee who comes in contact with the public has a face covering that covers nose and mouth whenever they are on duty, they are to have their customers wear face coverings, they must provide hand sanitizer for employees and customers at entrances and exits especially near restrooms and cash registers.
Additionally, retail businesses should also do all they can to abide by the six-feet separation rules and any businesses that use shopping carts and baskets should have them sanitized after each customer’s use along with any other high-touch areas such as door handles.
Social gatherings are also addressed and social distancing must be observed. Gatherings are limited to 10 people indoors and 20 persons outdoors and face coverings are required indoors and outdoors whenever the six-feet separation rules can't be observed.
These rules and regulations are enforceable by any state, local, or county law enforcement official.
Along with the above restrictions, the county is also implementing and planning to enforce a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew whereby people should not be on public streets or any public place unless they are traveling to or from work or for medical reasons.
Law enforcement personnel and first responders are not included. The penalties for not abiding by these restrictions apply for each occurrence. The order goes into effect immediately and will last until it is rescinded by the county leaders. Attorney Johnny McWilliams said the county's proclamation does not interfere with or supersede any conflicting municipal curfew ordinances.
In other business,
The county lawmakers also approved an order to provide administrative paid leave for any county employee who is sent home by their department head or supervisor and directed to quarantine at home because of COVID-19 concerns. The order also includes anyone who is part of an at-risk group--60 years of age and older or who has pre-existing medical conditions that place them in high risk categories for contracting the disease.
According to the order, if a dispute arising with regard to whether or not the employee should continue on administrative leave, then a doctor's order would be required and if the doctor’s order does not confirm for that person to remain on paid leave then they will no longer be eligible for administrative leave with pay. This is also effective immediately.
Monday's session was the continuation of a recessed session from the June 6 meeting, which is scheduled to be a budget hearing for county department heads.