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Supervisors to extend COVID-19 orders into February, plan promotion campaign

Warren County supervisors plan to extend the county’s emergency order through Feb. 1 with an amendment encouraging people to wear masks outside if they are unable to practice social distancing.

The supervisors are expected to approve the emergency order extension and the amendment encouraging masks outdoors when they meet Dec. 21. They are also expected to approve public service announcements encouraging county residents to continue following COVID-19 precautions in anticipation of the arrival of a vaccine.

Supervisors had discussed the idea of requiring masks to be worn outdoors, but in the end, decided to instead “encourage” residents to wear masks outdoors.

Board Attorney Blake Teller was directed to prepare the amended order.

The discussion came as Warren County is experiencing a surge in the number of cases. So far in December, Warren County has reported a total of 375 cases and eight virus-related deaths, pushing December toward becoming the worst month thus far in the now 9-month pandemic.

Presently, the board’s order requires people to wear a mask inside businesses and public buildings and signs at convenience stores telling people purchasing gas to maintain social distancing.

“The indoor version doesn’t say anything about social distancing,” Board President Jeff Holland said. “It just says if you’re indoors, wear a mask. Shouldn’t we have anything analogous for outdoors that says if you cannot achieve social distancing that you should have a mask on?”

“That’s what the doctors and the science and everything else tell us,” District 5 Supervisor Kelle Barfield said.

District 1 Supervisor Ed Herring suggested the public service announcement.

“We’ve all talked about this and people are kind of tired of being told what to do and when to do it,” he said. “Frankly, we probably all know the rules by now. It’s just a matter of breaking it down and being a little more personal by saying, ‘We’re just as tired of this as you all are. Help us help you get through this last little phase until the vaccines are administered and we all can put this behind us.’

“Just compassionately ask, ‘let’s do this together,’” he said.

Herring said the board’s resolution should include the recommendations that people take precautions like wearing the mask and “just regular hygiene — wash your hands, stay apart. You feel bad, don’t go; don’t be scared to call somebody up. If you’re sick, don’t come to a house like that.”

District 2 Supervisor Shawn Jackson agreed, adding she wanted the board to leave the outdoor masking provision out of the emergency order.

“I think a PSA will take us a lot further than anything,” she said. “We’ve had commercials launched for way less purposes. We can do more things to encourage than to say, ‘Do this or you’re going to get fined.’”

Holland suggested tying the public service announcement with a provision encouraging people “to wear masks in every circumstance where you cannot achieve social distancing where social distancing is necessary. Everyone knows now what the social distancing requirements are.”

District 2 Supervisor William Banks said masks should be worn.

“I don’t care if it’s a family activity or anything,” Banks said. “If you’re not six feet apart, you need to wear a mask.”

He said most of the problems with COVID-19 involve large groups where people don’t wear masks and don’t know where the person they’re next to has been.

“My theory is we’re in the home stretch,” Holland said as he directed Teller to develop the amended order. “I think we know what our messages are. We want to (also) go with the PSA.”

Supervisors did not mention a budget for the public service announcement campaign.

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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