Travel restrictions, park closures part of city’s response to virus threat

Published 2:12 pm Monday, March 16, 2020

With concern over the COVID-19 virus increasing, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen Monday adopted a series of policies and procedures for employee safety and declared a joint state of emergency with the Warren County Board of Supervisors.

“We are about to embark on something that I don’t any of us, I don’t care how old you are, have ever experienced what we’re experiencing in the United States as relates to the coronavirus,” Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said before the city board’s vote. “This (the virus) is a moving target. This can change on the hour or by day, we don’t have a clue.”

Flaggs urged residents to “listen to the experts on this issue” and get accurate information about the disease and precautions.

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletter

Receive daily headlines and obituaries

“Ladies and gentlemen this is a serious, serious matter and I would ask that we use all precautions that we can to try to minimize this,” he said. “And please cooperate with everyone in authority.”

He said the joint declaration was the first time in his memory he could recall the city and county coming together on an issue.

At a brief ceremony after the board meeting to sign the joint declaration, Flaggs said the emergency declaration would ensure that city and county officials stayed “on the same page.”

“What this does for us, is it brings all the power of our city and our county together to do everything we need to do to support the citizens of our community during this time,” Board of Supervisors President Dr. Jeff Holland said. “It’s not an indication that we are any more or any less concerned about what’s going on.

“It’s a simple indication that we’re trying to prepare the very best that we can to deal with the conditions as they are,” he said.

“This is a community, and it is imperative that our city and our county governments work together to do everything that the citizens of our community need to help to alleviate as much of this problem as we possibly can, and that’s what we’re doing; working together to solve that problem as best we can,” Holland said.

During the board meeting, Flaggs said the city will follow the Mississippi Department of Health guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19. He also outlined the additional policies for the city and its employees. Some of the policies, he said, will be re-evaluated by March 29:

• For the next 14 days, city employees will operate under the “Emergency, hazardous conditions and inclement weather policy.”

• Police officers should take proper precautions, such as wearing gloves, when making physical contact with the public.

• Every city-owned restroom will be checked for sufficient amounts of soap and/or hand sanitizer, and paper towels each hour of the workday for the next 30 days. The policy will be re-evaluated on or before April 13.

• The city’s senior center will remain closed for the next 14 days.

• The city is suspending water and gas customer disconnects for the next 60 days.

•  City-funded employee travel for any distance over 100 miles outside of Vicksburg is suspended for the next 30 days, unless considered necessary by the mayor. The city-funded travel suspension policy will be re-evaluated on or before April 13.

• Any city employee or family member within their household, who travels over 100 miles outside of Vicksburg during the next 30 days, must report it to their immediate supervisor. The policy will be re-evaluated on or before April 13.

• Any city employee who travels outside of the United States must stay home for 14 days before returning to work over the course of the next 30 days. The policy will be re-evaluated on or before April 13.

• All city-owned recreation facilities will be closed for the next 14 days, including the Jackson Street YMCA and all city parks and recreation facilities.

• There will be no public meetings, zoning or code enforcement hearings, or public gatherings of more than 50 people for the next 14 days. • Municipal court cases are postponed for the next 14 days unless deemed an emergency.

• City officials recommend no inside funeral services exceeding more than 50 people be held for the next 14 days and recommend graveside services only.

• The dress code policy for city employees is relaxed for the next 14 days to provide for the comfort of its employees.

“We’re trying to do everything we can in the city, as is the county,” Flaggs said. “(Warren County Emergency Management director) John Elfer, the sheriff (Martin Pace), Dr. Holland and I have met; we will continue to meet try to adjust.

“This is the time for all of us, not just here in Vicksburg, but all over the country to work together as best you can,” he said.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

email author More by John