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Flaggs extends emergency declaration, relaxes restrictions on businesses

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said Friday he is extending the city’s COVID-19 emergency declaration for another month but loosened restrictions to allow most businesses to return to 100 percent operation provided they continue to require masks and social distancing.

“After today we are going back to as normal as we possibly can be,” he said.

Flaggs said the relaxed requirements begin Monday and are based on several items.

One is that Vicksburg and Warren County averaged 3.79 new cases for the past 14 days and an average of 2.68 cases for the last seven days.

That means Flaggs said, that the people of Vicksburg are taking precautions against COVID-19 and complying with the requirements of the emergency order.

But the mayor said the changes to the order would be monitored and if officials “see any spike in cases within a seven-day period or a 14-day period we will go back to the restrictions.” 

The mayor’s announcement of the relaxed regulations comes two days after Gov. Tate Reeves announced Wednesday he was easing many of the statewide pandemic restrictions and allowing the state’s mask mandate to expire.

While he respected Reeves, Flaggs said he decided to continue the emergency order because “I find that all the scientific data I’ve read shows that wearing masks and the social distancing works.

“And we’re about to enter into the most vulnerable part of any flu symptoms and colds. That’s where you cough (and) you can have the tendency to spread that,” he said. “We believe that we’re siding on the side of caution for what’s in the best interests of our citizens.”

Under the amended emergency order, retail businesses, restaurants and bars and other businesses with the exception of gyms and movie theaters can return to full operation as long as they continue requiring social distancing and masks. Manufacturing businesses are exempt from the mask requirement and Flaggs also removed the mask mandate for outside provided people maintain social distancing.

“If you can practice, or you can be more than 6 feet away from someone — unless they’re a family member, you don’t have to wear a mask outside,” Flaggs said. “The mask requirement is for indoors. If you can’t practice social distancing you can wear a mask on the outside.”

Gyms and fitness centers and theaters and auditoriums cannot exceed 75 percent of capacity. A maximum of 10 people will be allowed to sit at tables in restaurants and bars and businesses that sell alcohol for consumption at the business must stop serving alcohol at 11 p.m. and close at midnight.

Businesses will continue to screen employees and customers for COVID-19 symptoms and disinfect high contact areas.

Group gatherings outdoors must maintain social distancing, and masks will be required for indoor gatherings. Face coverings are encouraged at church services and social distancing must be practiced. Graveside services are encouraged for funerals.

Flaggs said compliance officer Tabitha Martin-Crawford will be checking businesses and gatherings to ensure they are following regulations.

Flaggs said the special law enforcement task force will remain as will the 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. juvenile curfew.

“We believe the decisions made today are based on scientific and medical evidence and it is good for our community,” Flaggs 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.

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