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Additional restrictions being considered as COVID-19 cases increase

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said Sunday he is not sure the increase in COVID-19 numbers in Vicksburg and Warren County is a spike, but regardless of what the increase is called, he is concerned.

Sunday, officials with the Mississippi State Department of Health announced 10 more new cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed among residents in Warren County; the fourth straight day the county has seen double-digit new cases.

Sunday’s report also documented the first virus-related death in Warren County in November. The state said the death — along with 14 others — occurred between July 29 and Nov. 14 and was identified from death certificate reports. The last virus-related death reported in Warren County was Oct. 26.

As of Tuesday, Warren County has now reported 1,721 cases and 57 virus-related deaths since the pandemic began in March.

Flaggs has scheduled a press conference for Wednesday, where he has already announced plans to expand the city’s ongoing mask mandate. The current mandate requires anyone in a business or public building to wear a mask or other face covering.

The expanded mandate — which would begin Thursday and end midnight Sunday — would also require masks must be worn during any outdoor event where social distancing is not possible.

But Flaggs said the rise in numbers — if they continue — could lead to additional measures to slow the spread of the virus.

“I am concerned enough to say that if the numbers over the next couple of days continue to rise I will have no other choice but to look at some more drastic, restrictive measures,” Flaggs said.

Those additional measures, Flaggs said Sunday, could include a 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew to go along with the enhanced mask mandate. Flaggs said the curfew, if implemented, would begin Thursday and extend through Sunday.

“In states that are seeing a significant increase utilizing a curfew to limit the exposure. I would rather consider these drastic decisions for Thanksgiving this year so that the people can be here and be together next Thanksgiving,” Flaggs said.

Health officials have urged caution over the coming Thanksgiving holiday, in some cases asking people not to gather with families if those gatherings put others at risk. Other guidelines have asked families to schedule outdoor events to limit exposure.

In the past week, Mississippi has seen overall case numbers surge, with Friday the state setting a one-day record in new cases when 1,972 were announced. Last week, Gov. Tate Reeves added more counties to state orders that ordered mask mandate restriction. The total number was brought to 22.

Warren County is not among those under state orders, given city and county leaders — working together — instituted similar mask mandates in mid-July, before a statewide mandate was put in place. The local orders have remained and extended even after Reeves allowed the statewide mandate to expire in September.

“We have been more proactive than the governor from day one. We have not been named a hot spot from day one, which is great news and means that what we are doing must be working. We want to continue to make it work,” Flaggs said. “But if in fact, these numbers continue to rise, we will not have any other choice to look at some more drastic measures.”

He said the addition of a curfew has not yet been decided and will depend on the number of new local cases reported by the state Monday and Tuesday. He also said the numbers reported Monday by local school officials — both public and private — will help in determining any additional restrictions.

Flaggs’ press conference is set for Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. and will be shared live on The Vicksburg Post’s Facebook page at facebook.com/thevicksburgpost.

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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