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Gatherings at parking garages and parking lots draw scrutiny from city officials

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. is considering an ordinance prohibiting groups from congregating on the city’s public parking garage and other parking lots in the city at night.

Flaggs’ announcement Monday came two days after Warren County reported a record 56 new cases of COVID-19 cases Saturday. Four cases were reported Sunday and two Monday.

“As it relates to this virus, I keep telling you that transmission of this virus is pretty much being transmitted by (people) the age of 28 and 30,” he said. “We’ve been having a lot of young people congregating on parking lots.”

Flaggs said he has talked with City Attorney Nancy Thomas about developing an ordinance to stop the large gatherings at lots by issuing citations for the violation.

“I don’t want to do that yet, but we’ve got to do something to be safe,” he said.

City and state COVID-19 regulations prohibit indoor gatherings of more than 10 people and restrict outdoor gatherings to a maximum of 20 people. Flaggs said the outdoor gatherings are exceeding the regulations.

Over the weekend, he said, the city put one of the police department’s mobile video cameras at one of the sites where people had been gathering.

“I saw some of your sons and daughters; I recognized some people,” Flaggs said. “There were more than 20 in groups.”

North Ward Aldermen Michael Mayfield and South Ward Alderman Alex Monsour said they have seen similar activity when they toured the city after dark.

Mayfield said the city’s parks have become hot spots for gatherings.

“Weekend before last and last weekend I rode around to the neighborhood playgrounds and what I see is not only appalling but it is dangerous,” Mayfield said, saying he has seen young people ignoring social distancing by dancing closely and not wearing masks “and that is dangerous at this particular time.”

Mayfield asked people to think not only of themselves but their families “that you may carry the virus home to when you’re out there having a good time.”

“Pay attention to what you’re doing,” Mayfield said. “It’s very dangerous out there and you could very easily catch this virus.”

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen in July amended its COVID-19 emergency declaration to require people to wear masks in all businesses. The order was amended Aug. 3 to exempt manufacturing businesses from the mask regulation.

Flaggs has already closed one popular gathering place, the pavilion in the Douglas Park area of Marcus Bottom, out of concern for potential infection from COVID-19.

He made the move, he said, after visiting the area several times and noticing violations of the city’s regulations.

“I did it to save lives,” Flaggs said Monday.

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.

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