BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - The convention center at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum is busy once again as county supervisors from across the state reconvene for their annual meeting. Even though participant numbers were down, the focus is still on health and safety.
Row after row of empty chairs stretched across the floors of the convention center. Business is back, but with executive orders limiting the number of people that can participate during conventions, the Mississippi Association of Supervisors have dialed down what is usually one of their biggest events of the year.
“Registration is down,” said MS Association of Supervisors Executive Director Derrick Surrette. “We have everything spaced out. As you can see, the chairs in the room are all spaced out. Masks are mandatory for everyone. We have masks available and we have security officers making sure. I’ve been very proud of our membership. Everyone’s wearing their masks even throughout the meeting.”
A series of signs greet participants as they enter the building. That was followed by a thermal temperature check and a COVID-19 waiver. Then off into the large ballroom, that Surrette said was part of the reason this event wasn’t canceled.
“This is a large convention center for the size of our state. That gave us the opportunity to hold this meeting at 25% capacity, which is in the governor’s executive order for convention centers,” Surrette said.
That is music to the ears of Convention Center Executive Director Matt McDonnell.
“The different events that we’ve been able to do during the pandemic, we’ve been able to do, for the most part, correctly. Ok, we’ve been able to show the public that this facility can still operate mainly because we have a lot of options,” McDonnell said.
He won’t take all of the credit.
“I have to give credit to the meeting planners,” McDonnell told WLOX. “They, too, want to make sure the meeting is safe. They have cooperated in every shape, form, and fashion in what we have suggested to them to make this work as smoothly as possible. They have been able to execute everything that needed to be done to make this event happen.”
Even though this could be a sign that business is slowly getting back to normal, McDonnell said that he’s not out of the woods yet.
“We have a lot of space where we can spread out and keep people safe. So yeah, it’s encouraging to have this kind of business back, but we’ve still got to be very cautious about how we approach every piece of business,” he said.