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Flaggs calls for random checks of businesses, citations for those not adhering to health orders

“We cannot afford to become a hot spot.”

With that simple statement, Mayor George Flaggs Jr. issued a warning to local residents and businesses that if the number of new COVID-19 cases continues its recent trend, additional restrictions on individuals and business operations are likely.

During Wednesday’s press conference, where Flaggs announced the city was extending its current civil emergency order and restrictions until July 13, he said he is ordering the city’s code enforcement department to begin conducting random checks on businesses seeing if they are complying with social distancing and enhanced health guidelines.

“These will be unannounced. If they walk into these restaurants, walk into a salon and see if they are not wearing the proper masks, not using proper social distancing, then they can call the police and then they will issue a citation,” Flaggs said, reminding that the current order calls for a $1,000 fine for those not adhering to the city’s orders. “I am being told that there are restaurants where the waiters and waitresses are not wearing masks when they serve.”

Flaggs also said that if state health officials declare Vicksburg and Warren County a hot spot, an area where the virus is appearing to be growing out of control, then additional restrictions from the state are likely and beyond the control of local elected officials.

He also said if the county is declared a hot spot that it is likely he would look at returning to some of the previous restrictions on businesses and individuals, such as ordering the closure of dining rooms, salons and barbershops.

But Flaggs said he hopes it does not reach the point where local lawmakers, and state lawmakers, are forced to levy additional restrictions.

“I don’t care how we legislate or how we develop policy, the ultimate responsibility of your safety and to mitigate this virus is your’s,” Flagg said. “It is self-responsibility. It is your responsibility to make sure you and your little ones are kept safe by socially distancing and wearing a mask. The best laws in the country are no better than the law you use in governing yourselves.”

In the latest reporting Tuesday by the Mississippi State Department of Health, Warren County reported a total of 347 total cases during the pandemic. Over the previous seven days, the county had seen 85 new cases.

Last Thursday, the county hosted a one-day test site in the parking lot of Vicksburg Mall, where Flaggs said nearly 200 people were tested.

During the pandemic, Warren County has reported 14 virus-related deaths, but Flaggs said a death that was recorded Tuesday, but not part of the state reporting yet, was of an individual he knew and grew up with.

“This is personal for me,” Flaggs said of the fight against the spread of the virus not identifying the individual. “We do not need to become a hot spot.”

About Tim Reeves

Tim Reeves, and his wife Stephanie, are the parents of three children, Sarah Cameron, Clayton and Fin, who all attend school in the Vicksburg Warren School District. The family are members of First Baptist Church Vicksburg. Tim is involved in a number of civic and volunteer organizations including the United Way of West Central Mississippi and serves on the City of Vicksburg's Riverfront Redevelopment Committee.

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