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City extends COVID-19 order, mask mandate into January

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. has extended the city’s COVID-19 Emergency Declaration through Jan. 4.

The previous order was set to expire Wednesday. Flaggs said the extension to Jan. 4 “coincides with the county (order).”

“We’re going back to normal,” he said, adding the mask mandate requiring people to wear facemasks outside during the Thanksgiving holidays has been lifted and people can now refrain from wearing masks outside as long as they are able to practice social distancing.

Masks will still be required in public buildings and businesses and social distancing guidelines for public and private gatherings will remain in effect as well as the 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. juvenile curfew.

Flaggs said he is also discontinuing the police task force, which was established in July. Under that program, police patrols were increased each Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. 

The task force consisted of a minimum of 11 patrol officers on duty with a watch commander and one of the department’s three deputy chiefs.

“The task force did a wonderful job but criminals change their habits and we have to be flexible and be able to adjust,” Flaggs said of his reason to end the program.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen in July approved an emergency order requiring residents to wear masks and practice social distancing. The order has been amended several times and in October was extended through Dec. 2. The board on Nov. 25 approved a special order requiring residents to wear masks through Monday.

The extension and changes to the city’s COVID-19 orders, while in effect Wednesday, will need to be ratified by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen at their meeting on Dec. 7.

Other elements of the emergency order remain in effect.

Retail businesses and restaurants can continue to operate at 100 percent of capacity if social distancing can be maintained. Bars, too, can operate at 100 percent of capacity but must stop serving alcohol by 11 p.m. and close by midnight. They also must continue to serve only those who are seated and tables are limited to 10 people.

Gyms and fitness centers must still require face coverings and operate at no more than 75 percent of capacity. Movie theaters are allowed — and encouraged — to operate with no more than 75 percent capacity.

In those cases, hand sanitizer must be available at entrances and exits.

Dance studios, libraries, museums, indoor and outdoor recreation facilities and places of amusement must require masks and can operate at 100 percent of capacity if social distancing can be maintained.

Reception halls and convention centers can return to 100 percent capacity as long as social distancing can be maintained. For seated meals, there should be at least six feet between tables and a maximum of 10 people per table.

The city is encouraging funerals to be held graveside, but they may be held at a church or funeral home at 11 a.m. or 2 p.m. The City Auditorium is also available to accommodate funeral services.

If those services are for someone who died as a result of COVID-19, the auditorium can be used for “one-half of the regular auditorium fee.”

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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