Paris residents are being asked to cover their nose and mouth when visiting public buildings, and retailers that have remained open are encouraged to limit the number of shoppers at any one time during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Many of our stores have already proactively adopted these policies, but some, unfortunately, have not,” Paris Mayor Steve Clifford said in a statement posted to Facebook. “Our essential stores provide an invaluable service to our community, and we greatly appreciate how they have responded to this crisis. But we need to be certain that everyone is safe while shopping in these stores.”
The mayor recommended that stores limit entrance to a certain number of people, a policy Walmart put in place Saturday, or that employees take cellphone numbers and shoppers can wait in their car until called. He said each store is encouraged to develop policies to protect the public and their own employees from the hazards of overcrowding.
“This is not yet a mandate, but it is a strong recommendation that our stores take appropriate action to protect the public,” he said.
Additionally, Paris residents over the age of 5 are strongly encouraged to wear some kind of facial covering, such as a homemade mask, scarf, bandana or handkerchief, when entering a building open to the public. Residents are also asked to cover their mouth and nose when using public transportation, taxis, ride shares or when pumping gas.
The new guideline doesn’t apply to people riding in their own vehicles or if they are outside for exercise and following social distancing guidelines, according to Clifford’s supplemental public health emergency order.
“These coverings provide a minimal amount of protection for the person wearing them, but they significantly help prevent the spread of the disease when worn by someone infected with the virus. They also serve as a constant reminder to not touch your face,” Clifford said. “Each person may decide for himself if wearing a face covering is appropriate... This is certainly not mandatory, but I would like to see more and more people wearing these in public. If we do this, we may help limit the spread of the virus.”
As of Friday evening, Lamar County had reported five Covid-19 cases. The Paris-Lamar County Health District cannot test for the disease temporarily as the state lab in Tyler where it sends specimens has run out of reagents, district director Gina Prestridge said. Private providers are still able to test since they can use private labs. They are required to report positive results to the health district, Prestridge said.
The city’s new guidance came as the federal government was working on new recommendations that Americans wear face coverings to slow the spread of the coronavirus. U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams initially recommended against widespread facial covering use, but he changed his stance in recent days as studies have shown they can reduce virus spread by about 50%. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, is transmissible through respiratory droplets generated by talking, laughing and exhaling.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has also supported the use of facial coverings, making clear the aim is not to “take away from the availability of masks that are needed for the health care providers who are in real and present danger of getting infected from the people that they’re taking care of.”
“Because of some recent information that the virus can actually be spread even when people just speak as opposed to coughing and sneezing — the better part of valor is that when you’re out, when you can’t maintain that 6-foot distance, to wear some sort of facial covering,” the top U.S. infectious disease official said Friday on “Fox & Friends.”
Clifford’s order cited Centers for Disease Control and Prevention findings that asymptomatic people are playing a greater role in the virus’s spread than previously thought. The CDC has learned infected people are contagious before they start showing any symptoms, and 1 in 4 infected never have symptoms.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.
Within an hour of Clifford’s order, President Donald Trump in his daily coronavirus press briefing recommended the voluntary use of facial coverings. He reiterated recommendations for social distancing, including staying at least 6 feet away from others and to not gather in groups larger than 10.