Vicksburg mayor announces 14-day mask mandate, emergency order

Published 4:04 pm Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr. issued an emergency order Wednesday evening, stating the city would be under a mask mandate for 14 days as a result of an increase in coronavirus cases in Warren County.

All persons shall wear a face covering inside public businesses/buildings, including retail businesses such as grocery stores, building supply stores, convenience stores and other businesses and organizations including, but not limited to, restaurants, salons, barbershops, tattoo parlors, if social distancing cannot be practiced (six feet apart),” the proclamation read.

The decision comes after the Delta variant of COVID-19 began sweeping across Mississippi, with the Mississippi State Department of Health reporting that all intensive care units in the state are at capacity.

“I’ve been advised by medical experts that Vicksburg’s COVID-19 cases are increasing at an alarming rate,” Flaggs said. “As a result of this, I believe it’s absolutely necessary that we institute an indoor mask mandate for 14 days in Vicksburg.”

Between July 25 through 31 in Warren County 104 new coronavirus cases were reported. The week before, 84 new cases were reported and the week before that, 50 new cases were reported in Warren County.  According to the city of Vicksburg’s proclamation, there have been 5,099 total cases and 128 deaths in Warren County as of Aug. 10.

Flaggs himself returned to work on Monday after announcing he’d tested positive for COVID-19 and had been isolating. City of Vicksburg employees were already placed under a 14-day mask requirement on Aug. 4.

Fire Chief Craig Danczyk also confirmed that there has been recent stress on emergency and medical systems at a local level.

“The Vicksburg Fire Department is seeing record-high ambulance call volume and stressed hospital systems due to COVID-19,” Danczyk said. “Now more than ever, our paramedics and EMTs are remaining vigilant, but emergency room capacity is challenging.”

According to the proclamation, face coverings do not apply to the following:

a. Any individual who will not come in contact with any other individual (outside of their immediate household members) or who will be able to maintain strict social distancing of six feet apart from any other individual (outside of immediate household)

b. Any child under the age of 8; however, all children between the ages of 2 and 7 years old are strongly encouraged to wear a face covering

c. Any individual with a medical condition that prevents the wearing of a face covering

d. Any individual who is consuming food or drinks

e. Any individual seeking to communicate with someone who is hearing impaired

f. Any individual speaking to an audience

g. Any individual temporarily removing his or her face covering for identification purposes

h. Employees and customers of manufacturing businesses or gaming businesses unless the business or jurisdictional authority require it.

The mayor explained the reason for including manufacturing and gaming businesses in the list of face mask exemptions is due to jurisdictional authority.

“The casinos are under the authority of the gaming commission. The Department of Labor would have authority over industrial businesses, such as Tyson,” Flaggs said.

Churches are also included in the order, Flaggs said.

“Churches and funerals have the highest rates of transmission,” he said. “If you can’t practice social distancing, you need to be wearing a mask. It’s time to act now.”

“Business owners and managers are entitled to rely upon the representations of their customers, patrons and employees regarding whether or not they qualify for an exception from the face covering requirement,” the proclamation read.

Individual violations of the face covering regulations will be subject to misdemeanor prosecution pursuant to Sec. 45-17-9 of the Mississippi Code of 1972, as amended, Sec. 33-15-7 and Sec. 1-9 of the Code of Ordinances of the City of Vicksburg and will be as follows:

1st offense: Warning

2nd offense: $100 fine

3rd offense and up: $300 fine per each separate violation.

The emergency order goes into effect Thursday, Aug. 12 at noon and runs through Aug. 26 at noon, unless extended, modified or repealed by a subsequent proclamation.