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Flaggs issues emergency order revisions, severe penalties for violations

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. on Friday tightened the city’s emergency order by issuing a mandatory mask order and requiring temperature checks at gatherings, restaurants and bars.

Flaggs announced the changes to the city’s civil emergency order aimed at curtailing the spread of the virus in the community at a Friday press conference. He also threatened severe consequences if the revised order is not followed, including cutting off businesses’ utilities.

“We will not compromise and we will not negotiate,” he said, pointing out that compliance officer Tabitha Martin-Crawford issued a citation to a local business for violating the law by not requiring customers to wear masks.

“From this day forward, if a police officer or anybody in law enforcement or the compliance officer comes in your business and you are not complying by the law we will cite you,” Flaggs said. “We can’t take the chance of not trying to mitigating this disease and then have people go into public places and carry this disease back to their family.”

Flaggs said he moved the planned press conference from Monday to Friday after Warren county reported a significant spike in new COVID-19 cases.

The report issued Friday by the Mississippi State Department of Public Health showed Warren County had reported 46 new COVID-19 cases overnight. The sudden spike pushed the county closer to being declared a virus hot spot by state health officials, given the level of new cases reported in the county over the past two weeks.

The number of average new cases per day has reached a level in Warren County not seen since early August.

“After the last couple days, in fact, the last five days, of numbers that are coming into me on the cases that involved Warren County and Vicksburg, I just thought that I could not wait until Monday to enact this civil emergency order,” Flaggs said.

“Life is too important, the mitigation of this disease is too important and I don’t want the city of Vicksburg to become one of the hot spots in the state of Mississippi,” he said.

Under the new order effective from noon Saturday through Jan. 4, anyone organizing a group or social gathering — inside or outside — of more than 20 people must check the temperature of everyone requesting entrance. If a person’s temperature is higher than 100.4 degrees, they must not be allowed to enter the gathering.

The host of the event must also keep a list of people attending the gathering and contact information for contact tracing if needed.

All restaurants, regardless if they sell alcohol, and bars are also required to take the temperature of anyone entering the business. If a person’s temperature is above 100.4 degrees, they will not be allowed to enter the business.

The mask mandate, which is also effective Saturday, requires people to wear a face mask indoors and outdoors, at group and social gatherings if social distancing is not or cannot be practiced.

Flaggs said he has been told about 85 to 95 percent of the people in the city are complying with the emergency order.

“I applaud the citizens of Vicksburg for doing what they’re supposed to do,” Flaggs said, but added there are some people and businesses that not following the order and indicated he will be taking action to make sure they comply.

“I don’t know what the governor’s going to do, I don’t know what the president is going to do,” he said. “But here in Vicksburg, Miss., we’re fixing to shake it down and we’re going to do it right and we’re going to do it to the extent that we’re going to mitigate this disease and save lives.

“If you don’t think a $1,000 fine is enough, I believe there comes a time if a business does not abide by the rules and regulations in this order we will cut your utilities off,” he said. “We have the authority to cut your utilities off — that means your water and gas can be disconnected as a means to govern yourself accordingly.”

Flaggs said it was not fair to shut the city down “or hurt business because one business won’t do what they’re supposed to do.”

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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