Most COVID-19 restrictions lifted as life returns to ‘near normal’

Published 5:47 pm Friday, March 26, 2021

As the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic comes to a close, officials in many states have removed most, if not all, of the restrictions that were put in place to mitigate the spread of the virus. 

In Mississippi, Gov. Tate Reeves has lifted nearly all of the state-ordered restrictions, while Vicksburg and Warren County have kept some orders in place — such as a mask mandate and social distancing orders — while easing others. 

On March 12, Mayor George Flaggs Jr. released an emergency order effective through April 1 lifting capacity restrictions on restaurants, outdoor sports complexes and multi-field facilities, reception halls and conference centers, and group gatherings, religious services and funerals.

“You can return to your church,” Flaggs said at the time. “And we are about to bring Fuzzy Johnson, Bazinsky Park and everything back for our youth.”

Besides easing capacity restrictions, Flaggs said restaurants and businesses would no longer need to check the temperatures of their employees or customers.

Other restrictions, such as the mask mandate, the 7:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. juvenile curfew and sanitation regulations for businesses remained in effect.

With the easing of restrictions comes the hope that at some point people will no longer have to wear masks or social distance.

Locally, however, residents are continuing to follow the city’s regulations.

“About 98 percent are still wearing masks,” said Tabitha Martin-Crawford, the city’s COVID-19 compliance officer. “Randomly, I may see one or two people who are not wearing a mask, but most are still trying to stay safe with wearing a mask and practicing social distancing.

“I’m not seeing a whole lot of resistance,” Martin-Crawford said. “If they (customers) come up to the door (of a business) and are not wearing a mask they’ll turn around and go back; I notice they’re still complying with the mandatory mask requirement.

She said people still call to complain about businesses that are not following the city’s guidelines. She has to remind them the city still is under a mandatory mask requirement, and some of their customers are concerned (the business) is not enforcing it as they should.

She said some people she has talked with say they are looking forward to no longer wearing a mask “and some are saying we still may be wearing masks for up to another year.”

Other people have their own opinions.

Covern Smith of Houston, Miss., who works in the health care industry, said she wears a mask and social distances because she works with COVID-19 patients. She’ll remove it when the pandemic ends.

“I’m ready to get rid of it,” she said.

Concerning the move to loosen restrictions and Gov. Tate Reeves lifting the mask mandate, she said, “I believe most people are tired of it and willing to take the risk. I’m not ready yet to risk other people’s lives.”

Jamie Corner of Kiln said she’s ready to stop wearing a mask.

“That’s fine with me,” she said.

“I’m totally delighted,” said Lynn Brackish, a resident of Opelika, Ala. “People need to use common sense. If they are at risk, they should wear a mask. People need to be smart.”

Cindi Pokrana of Tampa, Fla., agreed.

“I think it’s a good idea (to lift the mask mandate). People should be smart enough to make their own decisions.”

While the mask mandate has been lifted in Florida, Pokrama said, “People are still wearing their masks. I hardly see any who won’t.”

Looking back on the start of the pandemic, Flaggs said he would liked to have issued the mask mandate and social distancing order earlier.

“I was getting mixed messages from the governor and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and the White House Task Force,” he said about the delay in issuing the mandates, “but we still did it before anyone in the state.

“I think we made the right decision listening to the local experts, Dr. (Carlos) Latorre and Dr. (Dan) Edney and those folks,” Flaggs said. “I really think we exceeded expectations — at least mine anyway — on what we were able to do.”

Looking forward, Flaggs said the March 12 order will be extended for an additional 30 days beginning April 1. He said in May he will reopen the Vicksburg Senior Center, which was closed out of concern for COVID-19.

“We’ll open the senior citizens center with different restrictions and a different order,” he 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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