New Albany officials order restaurant dining rooms closed

March 20th, 2020     Featured General News

City of New Albany orders restaurants to close dining rooms

New Albany officials have ordered all restaurants in the city to close in-facility dining effective at midnight Friday, March 20. Restaurants may offer curbside or delivery service.

The mayor and board of aldermen issued the order Friday.

Mayor Tim Kent

“The city realizes that this will pose an extreme hardship on our local restaurants, whom we value greatly,” Mayor Tim Kent said. “We want to encourage the public to continue to buy food from them, if they choose to remain open.”

“The CDC has advised us that the virus cannot be acquired by eating food. Just wash your hands thoroughly. And we believe it is crucial that we all do our part to shop locally, eat locally, live locally. We are in this together, and our businesses need you to use them, even if it is nothing more than the purchase of a gift card as a promise of your future business.”

Kent says city departments and services are working well under emergency conditions, but he fears many people are not taking the threat seriously.

Fears people are not taking the coronavirus threat seriously

“I cannot underline the urgency enough,” he said. “We are in a time of crisis and the threat is real.”

Kent noted this is the first time the president, the governor, the county and the city have all declared a state of emergency at the same time.

“This threat is not merely speculation or exaggeration,” he said. “We know the course this pandemic will take if we do not act.”

Area hospitals not equipped for large inflow of patients

“We potentially face very high infection rates, mostly with mild symptoms, but some requiring hospitalization and critical treatment and, if infection rates go high, far too many likely to result in death,” he said.

“As with most cities, our hospital system does not have the capacity to treat a rapid inflow of patients, including more who may need ventilators and similar treatment.

Must ‘flatten the curve’

“So we have to ‘flatten the curve’ by making the spread of this virus slow to a rate our health system can handle. We owe it to each other to do this,” he said.

The mayor is optimistic we can do this as has been done in other localities.

“The plain and simple truth is that towns, counties and individuals who socially isolate save lives. And the officials of the City of New Albany are fully committed to saving the lives in our community.”

Businesses asked to make work places safer

City officials are also encouraging all businesses to send non-essential workers home temporarily, or implement policies such as dividing workers into shifts, operating skeleton crews, or whatever is necessary to protect the safety of workers and community.

“We also realize that this may be a time of hardship for many of our workers,” Kent said. “The federal government has passed bills to provide immediate and essential financial aid in the near future to nearly all taxpayers.”

He said the city will make announcements or provide links to aid our citizens in acquiring any help they need or that becomes available, such as links with the Mississippi Department of Employment Security if they have been temporarily laid off, and links to the Small Business Administration with respect to small businesses in need of aid or loans.

People MUST use common sense, follow CDC guidelines

“We ask all our citizens to please use the common sense measures recommended by the CDC,” Kent said.

That includes self-isolating, social distancing, hand washing, home and workplace disinfection and protection of coughs and sneezes.

Most important, the mayor said do not go out if you or anyone in your home is sick with a respiratory illness, even if it is mild. What may be mild to you can, and in the case of this virus sometimes is, potentially fatal to others.

Kent said the City of New Albany officials are in touch with all appropriate agencies including the hospital, CDC and Emergency Management. “We are doing everything we can to stay abreast of the situation to and be pro-active in order to protect our citizens,” he said.

“We are trying to assist state agencies in educating our citizens of the urgency of this crisis, how they can help, and what they need to do. You can find community announcements and links to announcements of state agencies on all news, city websites and social media.”

City services including electricity, gas, water continue normal

“And let me assure you, we are 100 percent committed to maintaining all essential city services.

There is no threat to our ability to provide utilities,” he said. Trash collection and other services will continue, although schedules may alter.

A state Public Service Commission order has halted any utility disconnections during this emergency.

“With that in mind, I do want to point out that we owe a special debt to all of our safety and healthcare workers,” Kent said. “They will perhaps face the biggest threat in the coming days and weeks. And we are prioritizing their needs and are fully committed to protecting them and their families.”

The city has temporarily opened the drive-through windows at the former Fred’s building for the convenience of those needing to pay utility bills.

City offices locked but functions ongoing

Although all city offices are locked, citizens can call to handle business or, if necessary, arrange an in-person meeting, but only if the person and those in the same household are symptom-free.

Anyone who has a court case in municipal court, and particularly if you were previously told to appear for old fines, those can be continued for now, Kent said. Call the court clerks at 534-1035.

Despite office closings, the board of aldermen will continue to meet as usual, as required by law.

“But we strongly encourage you not to attend in person at this time,” Kent said.“ As city officials, we have to take some risks. Those go with the positions and that it our duty. But it is also important that we minimize those risks in the same manner that we are requesting that you do so.”

Meetings to be held at Magnolia Civic Center to allow distancing

For now, all board of aldermen meetings will be held in the city civic center so that they can maintain the proper social distance during the meetings. Aldermen may call into the meetings via telephone or video conferencing, as needed.

“And we are looking for a way for the public to call in also and listen to the meetings,” Kent added. “We will announce that as soon as the method is finalized.”

Citizens may speak or get on the agenda by first obtaining permission from the office of the mayor by the Friday before regular meetings on the first Tuesday of each month.

Needed assistance will be made available

“We also want to make you aware that there are and will be people who need assistance,” Kent said. “Some because they are vulnerable and cannot go out. Others because someone in their home is sick. And financial hardship may cause other households to have difficulty providing for their essential needs.”

“We recognize that there are groups doing all that they can to provide for these needs, such as local churches and food pantries. And we applaud their efforts and good will,” the mayor said.

If you fall into one of these categories, you cannot shop for yourself for fear of leaving your home, or you are sick and simply cannot leave the home, please call the city will do its best to find the appropriate groups to serve you, the mayor said.

If you think you or someone in your home may have the disease, do not panic, Kent emphasized. The disease is mild for most people. In some cases, it’s so mild that you may not be sure that you have it.

If symptoms occur, call doctor or other provider before going to the hospital

BMH Union County advises that if your symptoms are mild to moderate, do not go to the hospital. You can call your doctor or medical provider. Follow their instructions.

If your symptoms are more severe, particularly if you are having trouble breathing, the hospital strongly advises that you call them and seek further instructions. 911 services will remain available for those in urgent need.

Take care of each other

“Please take care of each other in this our time of need,” Kent said. “None of us has ever seen a time like it. All of our city officials love this city and we know its qualities. We are a place that cares about others. Keep that in your hearts, do what you can, and know that this will soon pass. We will make it through. Of that I am 100 percent confident.”


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