JACKSON, Miss. (WTVA) — Mississippi's governor and state health officer are asking the owner of the First Monday flea market in Tippah County to not open this weekend.
"Tippah County has a lot of cases. This is not going anywhere, and I can think of few better ways to spread it than a bunch of strangers coming together in close proximity and exchanging things by hand," State Health Officer Doctor Thomas Dobbs said during the state's Friday coronavirus news conference.
Empty stalls Thursday at the site of this weekend's First Monday flea market in Tippah County. (Wayne Hereford)
"Mixing and mingling, talking, not wearing masks and then going back out to their communities, that's how community spread occurs," Governor Tate Reeves added. "Please do not do that."
However, the owner of First Monday, a sprawling 52-acre property that hosts hundreds of vendors, told WTVA 9 News on Thursday he is prepared to protect the vendors and the people who visit.
"As soon as they get here, they're going to be given the rules about social distancing, all the stuff to do," owner Jerry Windham said. "We're going to have masks available. Vendors are going to have them. We'll have people going around with hand sanitizer from Cathead Distillery. We're going to be spraying hands out in the field as they go."
Windham added he has heard complaints from those who don't think opening up is a good idea right now.
"We've talked to the county's attorneys, our own sheriff," Windham said. "We feel like if we'll do everything reasonably possibly to keep people safe and do it within the guidelines the governor has set forth, then everything will be okay."
When asked about the flea market, Dobbs and Reeves may not have been aware of the steps Windham planned to take at his venue. It appeared by their reactions this was the first they had heard about the flea market's plans.
Following that came advice to those who plan to go to First Monday.
"Please stay home," Dobbs said.
First Monday officials responded to Governor Reeves and Dr. Dobbs Friday evening.
Their statement reads:
" First Monday Trade Days has operated safely in Tippah County for more than a century and will continue to do so this weekend. The health and safety of our patrons is always our paramount concern. We determined to reopen after the Governor issued his guidelines that also allowed regional shopping malls and other retail outlets across the state to reopen this past week. We are also not aware of any change to the plan to reopen retail businesses statewide. While we recognize that there will always be risk, First Monday is a law-abiding business and, like every other business in the state, will operate according to the law. We will exercise every effort to maintain social distancing with other CDC guidelines and will limit the number of patrons on the property, if necessary, in order to keep the public safe. First Monday has no interest in putting the public at any enhanced risk but does not want to be singled-out as being different from any other retail business. We encourage the pubic to exercise personal responsibility to
help us keep everyone else safe as they do business. First Monday appreciates its vendors and patrons as we continue to work through these challenging times as safely as possible. Thank you. "