The health & safety of our MEC members and the Mississippi business community is of paramount importance. As the coronavirus continues to spread throughout the United States, it is important that our state navigates this issue with care and deliberation.

Below are resources we have pulled together to help educate employers on the coronavirus:

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COVID-19 News

Governor Reeves Issues New Comprehensive Safe Recovery Order in Ongoing Effort to Flatten the Curve

Governor Tate Reeves has announced his new comprehensive Safe Recovery order as a one-stop resource for Mississippians as we continue to flatten the curve on new COVID-19 cases.

Throughout this pandemic, one of the top priorities for the Governor has been transparency and keeping Mississippians up-to-date on the state's response. Replacing the Safe Return order and its amendments, Governor Reeves has combined all social distancing measures into one executive order to ensure understanding and keep people better informed.

"I have always tried to stress the important balance of this time: we cannot allow our system to collapse, and we should not use the heavy-hand of government more than it is justified," said Governor Tate Reeves. "We have to tailor our actions to the current threat, and make sure that they do not go beyond what is reasonable."

Under the new executive order, some social distancing restrictions have been eased as our new COVD-19 case numbers continue to improve. A few of the relaxed restrictions include increasing attendance at outdoor K-12 extracurricular events such as football games to 50% of seating capacity, limiting group gatherings when you are unable to social distance to no more than 20 indoors and 100 outdoors, and requiring masks for schools and close contact businesses like salons and barbershops. The order is in effect until Wednesday, November 11 at 5:00 PM.

Governor Tate Reeves has announced that he is extending the social distancing measures under the Safe Return order with a few amendments relaxing restrictions as Mississippi flattens the curve on new COVID-19 cases.

Continuing to work with state and national health experts on a data-driven, measured strategy to limit transmission, Governor Reeves has extended the Safe Return order until Wednesday, September 30 at 5:00 PM.

Under the amended Safe Return order, group gathering limitations are now at no more than 10 indoors or 50 outdoors when social distancing is not possible. If people are able to social distance, group gatherings are set at no more than 20 indoors or 100 outdoors.

Maximum capacity has also been increased to 75% for retail businesses, restaurants, gyms, and seated dinners at reception halls and conference centers. Party sizes in restaurants are now limited to 10 people per table, and gyms can be open 24 hours a day.

Learn More

Governor Tate Reeves recently announced that he is extending the social distancing measures under the Safe Return order, including the statewide mask mandate, and issuing crowd-size limitations on K-12 extracurricular activities in the state's ongoing fight to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Continuing to work closely with Dr. Thomas Dobbs and other state health experts on data-driven, measured strategies to limit transmission, the Governor has extended the social distancing measures an additional two weeks until Monday, August 31 at 8:00 AM. Governor Reeves is also amending the Safe Return order, placing an attendance cap on all K-12 extracurricular activities, such as football and band concerts, to no more than two spectators per participant. Each extracurricular event must have a dedicated Safety Officer to ensure all social distancing measures are followed as well.

"Sports and these other activities are instrumental in the lives of our young Mississippians. They teach discipline and responsibility in a way that can’t be replicated," said Governor Tate Reeves at his press briefing today. "That said, we are living through a pandemic. One of my greatest concerns heading into this school season has been sports and those other events which cause the community to come out in crowds. Twenty-two players on a field is not going to overwhelm a local hospital. Two thousand people in a small school’s bleachers might."

Click Here to Read Executive Order 1518

The Mississippi Department of Employment Security (MDES) has announced the Work Search temporary waiver under the Executive Order No. 1510 will expire as of August 08, 2020. All individuals currently receiving unemployment benefits will be required to meet the work search requirements established in Miss. Code Ann. §71-5-51 l(a)(i) and MDES Regulation 305.02 beginning August 9, 2020, for the week ending August 15, 2020.

An individual must make an active search for full-time work in order to receive unemployment insurance benefits. Self-employed individuals and individuals who receive 1099s who are filing for benefits must also meet the work search requirements to remain eligible.

Mississippi Department of Employment Security (MDES) defines “actively seeking work” as follows:

  • You MUST be registered for work with MDES Employment Services (Mississippi Works).
  • You MUST contact three (3) employers each week to apply for full time work (35 hours or more).
  • An actual application must be completed with at least one of the three employer contacts. An application is defined as any completed application or resume submitted to an employer for suitable work, either in person, via mail, or via electronic communication. Resume is honored as an ‘application’ by MDES if that is the acceptable mode for applying with that employer. The work applied for MUST be appropriate in light of the labor market and your skills and capabilities.

Work Search information is collected during the Weekly Certification process. All work search information is subject to verification with the employer. It is important that you input all of the information correctly. If the work search information is input incorrectly, you may be denied unemployment benefits for that week.

Failure to look for, apply for, or accept suitable work will result in a denial of benefits.

A link to this information can be found at mdes.ms.gov/worksearch.

Governor Tate Reeves recently announced two new executive orders to delay public school reopenings in target counties and establish a statewide mask mandate in the ongoing fight against this unprecedented pandemic.

"Here’s the bottom line: we have to balance the very real risk of the virus and the lifelong damage of school closures. To do that, we have to safely provide education for the greatest possible number of children," said Governor Tate Reeves at today's press briefing. "The best way to accomplish that is to provide guidelines, allow local school leaders to tailor them, and step in with the authority of state government where it is absolutely necessary. That is what we’re doing today. This is the beginning of that effort, not the end."

Working closely with officials in the Mississippi Department of Education and the Mississippi State Department of Health, Governor Reeves is directing school districts in counties with a higher risk of community transmission and recent spikes in new cases to delay the start of the 2020-2021 academic year. Under Executive Order No. 1517, school districts in the following counties must delay their reopening for grades 7-12 until Monday, August 17:

  • Bolivar
  • Coahoma
  • Forest
  • George
  • Hinds
  • Panola
  • Sunflower
  • Washington

The new executive order includes a statewide mask mandate for schools, instructing all Mississippians to wear a mask when inside a school building or classroom, or outside on a school campus when social distancing is not possible.

To combat rising cases and ramp up response efforts across the state, Governor Reeves also issued a statewide mask mandate for all Mississippians to wear a mask when in public, with exceptions including for children under 6 years old, those who cannot cover their face for medical or behavioral conditions, and those at religious worship. Going into effect Wednesday morning, Mississippians must wear a mask when they're inside a business, school, or any place open to the public, or when at an outdoor public space where social distancing is not possible.

Learn More

Governor Tate Reeves has announced the launch of the ReSkill Mississippi initiative (ReSkillMS) to help ease the economic burden and uncertainty this pandemic has created for our state's workforce.

Mississippians who lost their jobs or had severe cutbacks and went on unemployment due to COVID-19 now have the opportunity to receive skills training at Mississippi community colleges to change jobs into high demand careers. Of the $1.25 billion in federal relief funds sent to Mississippi under the CARES Act, the Mississippi legislature appropriated $55 million to support our state's workers and employers, which enabled the Governor and a coalition of the state's workforce leaders to create an innovative new program to train individuals for good-paying jobs most needed right now and into the future.

Learn More

Visit ReSkillms.com

Governor Tate Reeves recently announced that he is extending the social distancing measures under the Safe Return and county-specific executive orders to continue combating the rising cases of COVID-19 across the state.

Consulting daily with state health officials on measured strategies to limit transmission and reviewing the data of the spike in cases, the Governor has extended the social distancing measures until Monday, August 17 at 8:00 AM.

"We are throwing everything that we can at the hospital crisis in our state, and we are going to continue working to ensure the integrity of our health care system," said Governor Tate Reeves to today's press briefing. "I want to underscore again: even if you do not personally fear Coronavirus, the overwhelming of the system affects everybody. If you get in a car wreck, you don’t want to be treated in a tent like we saw in other parts of the country. You want to get the best possible care."

The Governor also announced that eight additional counties within our state had reached the hotspot threshold set by state health experts.

Under Executive Order No. 1515, the following counties have been added to the county-specific executive orders with tighter social distancing measures going into effect on Monday, August 3 to help limit transmission:

  • Carroll
  • Coahoma
  • Jones
  • Lee
  • Leflore
  • Lowndes
  • Noxubee
  • Pontotoc

Click Here to Read Executive Order 1514

Click Here to Read Executive Order 1515

Governor Tate Reeves recently announced his amended Safe Return order, establishing additional measures on social gatherings and events to protect public health as COVID-19 cases rise across the state.

Closely monitoring data from the Mississippi State Department of Health and consulting with our state health experts, Governor Reeves signed a new executive order that amends previous restrictions on group gatherings and bars. The amended Safe Return order is in effect until 8:00 AM on Monday, August 3.

To limit transmission across the state, the new social distancing measures include:

  • Social gatherings are limited to 10 or less indoors and 20 or less outdoors.
  • Bars can only sell alcohol to seated customers, and no alcohol can be sold at restaurants or bars after 11:00 PM until 7:00 AM. Previous social distancing measures, such as limiting to 50% capacity, updating floor plans to ensure 6 feet distance between groups, and limiting to 6 people per table, remain in effect.

The Governor also announced that six additional counties were identified as hotspots within our state, adding the following counties to the county-specific executive order with tighter social distancing measures to help limit transmission:

  • Calhoun
  • Holmes
  • Lamar
  • Montgomery
  • Winston
  • Yalobusha

Learn More

Governor Tate Reeves recently announced that he has extended his Safe Return and county-specific executive orders, adding ten counties under the tighter social distancing measures to help limit transmission and protect public health.

Consulting with Dr. Dobbs and our state health experts, ten additional counties were identified as localized regions with spikes in cases and at higher risk for transmission:

  • Bolivar
  • Covington
  • Forrest
  • Humphreys
  • Panola
  • Sharkey
  • Simpson
  • Tallahatchie
  • Tate
  • Walthall

Learn More

Governor Tate Reeves and the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) recently launched the MEMA COVID-19 Emergency Relief Program to help relieve the financial burdens on counties and municipalities caused by this unprecedented pandemic.

In House Bill 1799 and Senate Bill 3047, MEMA was allocated $70,000,000 of CARES Act money to assist counties and municipalities with their COVID-19 expenses.

"Hopefully it can help keep more people on the job, and prevent more layoffs," said Governor Tate Reeves. "It’s not enough to overcome the terrible cost of COVID-19, but it’s something. It’s necessary. And we’re going to do everything we can to get it out quickly and efficiently."

Governor Reeves made the announcement with Director Greg Michel in a July 14 press briefing.

Through FEMA’s COVID-19 Economic Disaster Declaration, counties, municipalities, and specific nonprofits are eligible for public assistance. While FEMA reimburses 75% of those approved expenses, some entities struggle to meet the 25% match. Through the MEMA COVID-19 Emergency Relief Program, the burden is now lifted from the counties and municipalities to provide that match.

Since not all COVID-19 expenses are eligible for federal reimbursement through FEMA, SB 3047 details what other expenses can be covered by the CARES Act funds. The allocation of funds from the Relief Program is based on the county or municipality’s population as listed in the 2010 U.S. Census. If a government entity’s costs are not entirely covered by FEMA’s reimbursement, MEMA will work with remaining CARES Act funds to help ensure a 100% reimbursement.

The CARES Act funding application process will be open from August 3- October 15. Information on how to apply for CARES Act funding will be available by July 31 on MEMA’s website at msema.org. According to SB 3047, reimbursements must begin August 15. Monies must be obligated by November 30 or will be returned to the Governor.

Counties and municipalities can apply for public assistance through FEMA’s Grants Portal now by visiting grantee.fema.gov.

Click Here to View Program Flier

Governor Tate Reeves recently announced additional social distancing measures for thirteen counties identified as hotspots within our state to limit transmission around the communities and protect the health of all Mississippians.

Consulting with our state health experts, thirteen counties were identified as localized regions with spikes in cases and at a higher risk for transmission:

  • Claiborne
  • Desoto
  • Grenada
  • Harrison
  • Hinds
  • Jackson
  • Jefferson
  • Madison
  • Quitman
  • Rankin
  • Sunflower
  • Washington
  • Wayne

Governor Reeves signed a new executive order establishing additional restrictions for those thirteen counties to slow the spread of COVID-19, including requiring people to wear masks when at public gatherings or in a shopping environment and limiting social gatherings to no more than 10 indoors and 20 outdoors.

"Mississippi is in a fight for our lives. COVID-19 is an ever-present threat, and we are in the middle of a spike. It is putting a strain on our hospital system," said Governor Tate Reeves at a press briefing. "Today, I am announcing a new order which places tighter restrictions on thirteen counties that are seeing greater risk than others. Make no mistake. The risk is present everywhere. It is most visible in these counties."

Similar to the guidelines set out for other counties previously in Executive Order No. 1483, the Governor lays out targeted guidelines for social distancing and sanitation protocols to slow the spread of COVID-19 within the thirteen counties, including:

For all businesses:

  • All businesses are expected to take every step necessary to implement the regulations, orders, and guidance from the Mississippi State Department of Health and CDC to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including social distancing and encouraging sick employees to stay home.
  • All employees will be screened daily at the beginning of their shifts, including asking whether they have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the past 14 days and have they had a fever in the last 48 hours.
  • Based on their duties and responsibilities, employees who are unable to maintain at least 6 feet distance from others must wear a face covering throughout their shift, such as a face mask. Their face coverings must be cleaned or replaced daily.
  • Hand sanitizer must be provided to all employees, which can include a hand rub or soap.

For retail businesses (in addition to measures above):

  • Face coverings must be provided to all employees who come in direct contact with customers. Employees are required to wear that face covering throughout their shift and clean or replace daily.
  • All customers must wear a face covering while inside the retail business.
  • Hand sanitizer must be placed at all entrances, in or near bathrooms, and at cashier stations.
  • Retail businesses are expected to make all efforts to maintain a 6-foot distance between customers at all times.
    • Carts, baskets, and other similar surfaces touched by customers must be sanitized after each use. Other high-touch areas must be sanitized at least once every two hours.
    For people out in public:
  • Everyone must wear face coverings when at public gatherings or in a shopping environment.
  • People must maintain a 6-foot distance between themselves and others.
  • Further limits on social gatherings: down to no more than 10 indoors and 20 outdoors.

Executive Orders Cheat Sheets

COVID-19 is a new respiratory virus that causes flu-like illness ranging from mild to severe, with symptoms of fever, coughing, fatigue and difficulty breathing. The CDC and MSDH are working to detect, contain and limit the spread of cases in the U.S. and Mississippi should they occur. MSDH is actively preparing doctors and hospitals on how to respond safely and effectively to COVID-19 in Mississippi.

Like the flu, COVID-19 is thought to be spread person-to-person by close contact (within 6 feet) and by coughing or sneezing. Other possible routes of transmission, such as touching surfaces contaminated by the virus, are also being investigated.

COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

The Mississippi State Department of Health and CDC Community Recommendations Through March 31, 2020:

  • Avoid gatherings of more than 10 people.
  • Restrict visitation to long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes.
  • Discretionary travel and social visits should be avoided.
  • Avoid eating or drinking in restaurants, bars, and food courts. Use drive-through, pickup and delivery options.
  • If anyone in a household tests positive for the virus, everyone who lives there should stay home.

Even with these new guidelines in place, it is still essential that everyone continues to practice basic preventative measures:

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly
  • Avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes
  • Clean surfaces and objects that are touched regularly
  • Stay home if you do become sick

Employer Resources

It is important for employers to maintain open lines of communication with their employees. To that end, employers should update contact information for employees if necessary and stay informed of the latest news. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also issued “Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease.” The CDC recommends that employers begin implementing the following steps now:

  • Encourage employees with acute respiratory illnesses to stay home;
  • Separate sick employees;
  • Emphasize cough and sneeze etiquette and hand hygiene;
  • Perform routine environmental cleaning;
  • Advise employees about the risks prior to travel to countries that have had a significant outbreak; and
  • Consider informing employees in the case of possible exposure in the workplace.

The Mississippi State Department of Health and CDC Community Recommendations Through March 31, 2020:

  • Avoid gatherings of more than 10 people.
  • Restrict visitation to long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes.
  • Discretionary travel and social visits should be avoided.
  • Avoid eating or drinking in restaurants, bars, and food courts. Use drive-through, pickup and delivery options.
  • If anyone in a household tests positive for the virus, everyone who lives there should stay home.

Even with these new guidelines in place, it is still essential that everyone continues to practice basic preventative measures:

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly
  • Avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes
  • Clean surfaces and objects that are touched regularly
  • Stay home if you do become sick

The CDC also recommends that employers create response plans now that the outbreak has reached the United States.

Employers should create response plans that would:

  • Provide flexibility and input from employees
  • Reduce transmission among staff
  • Protect people at higher risk for adverse health complications
  • Maintain business operations
  • Minimize adverse effects on other entities in their supply chains
  • Share best practices

Can your business allow short-term telecommuting? Flexible hours? The cancellation of some or all business travel? Fewer in-person meetings? There is no single answer to these questions for every business.

Can employers require employees to undergo medical examinations?

As noted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in its guidance, “Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act,” employers may not require medical examinations under the ADA unless the medical exam is job-related and consistent with business necessity. Whether a medical exam is job-related and consistent with business necessity depends upon the facts presented (e.g., what are the employee’s symptoms, where has the employee been, etc.) and the latest CDC guidance on coronavirus.

What actions can employers take in the case of a pandemic?

In the case of a pandemic, employers can send employees home if they show coronavirus-like symptoms at work. Furthermore, employers may ask employees if they are experiencing coronavirus-like symptoms as long as they are mindful of confidentiality obligations. Finally, if an employee returns from traveling during a pandemic, an employer may ask the employee whether they are returning from a location where that individual may have been exposed to the virus.

Obviously, this is an evolving issue. The businesses that plan for it will be in a better position to deal with it if it becomes a crisis in the United States.

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