Mississippi and Tennessee are both set to loosen social distancing restrictions on Monday as individual states move toward reopening their economies.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) announced his stay-at-home order is expiring and a “safer at home” order will go into effect on Monday. The new order, which will last for two weeks, still encourages people to stay at home “as much as you possibly can,” and mandates that the most vulnerable remain inside. It also bans nonessential gatherings of 10 or more people, but allows businesses that can practice social distancing to reopen.
Health care officials will also be permitted to conduct some elective procedures if they follow health department guidelines. Businesses that cannot avoid social contacts such as salons, gyms, spas and tattoo parlors will remain shuttered.
“We cannot let our guard down and pretend this is over. It’s not. The fight must go on. Why? Because we are facing a crisis. This threat is real. It is deadly. This virus is historically contagious. We must not take it lightly,” Reeves said at a press conference.
Reeves’s decision comes as his state sees a spike in unemployment claims.
“We went from less than 1,000 up to 45,000 new claims last week,” Reeves said. “We did have a down tick. The numbers that came out today showed approximately 35,000 new people got online and were successful in filing unemployment insurance. We’re continuing to ramp up the number of people.”
Tennessee will also ease its restrictions, permitting restaurants to provide dine-in service with limited capacity beginning Monday. Retail stores will be allowed to reopen Wednesday. Both industries must commit to initially halve the number of customers in their establishments.
However, Tennessee’s largest cities like Nashville, Memphis and more, will establish their own reopening plans.
“We want to have the majority of businesses open before May 1,” said Tennessee Gov. Bill lee (R). “Not every industry will be in a position open safely immediately.”
Mississippi has had more than 5,400 coronavirus cases, while Tennessee has had more than 8,700 cases.
State governments across the country are grappling with their decisions over how and when to reopen their economies, having to balance health measures with the exploding economic fallout from the pandemic. Over 26 million Americans have applied for their first round of unemployment insurance since March, and jobless claims have broken historic highs.