Vicksburg, Warren County leaders speak on future mask mandates

Published 3:01 pm Friday, September 8, 2023

Recent speculation in national news media revealed concerns that mask mandates may make a comeback due to the rise of a new COVID variant, BA.2.86.

However, local leaders said they are hesitant to reinstate masking.

The City of Vicksburg will not yet return to a COVID-era mask mandate, Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said.

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“No, we will not reinstate a mask mandate because it would be a little premature at this time,” Flaggs said. “Now that we have vaccines, I think we are in a far safer place as a community than we were at the start of the pandemic in 2020. If someone wants to wear a mask, that is fine by me. But I am going to wait for the Mississippi Department of Health or the CDC to tell me if and when a mask mandate is needed.”

In Warren County, the Board of Supervisors President Kelle Barfield and Vice President Dr. Jeff Holland said they are monitoring the situation.

Both Barfield and Holland said their board is aware of the data and is consulting with experts from the Centers for Disease Control and the Mississippi Department of Health. The supervisors concurred that there is no predetermined set of conditions that would automatically compel the board to reinstate a mask mandate.

“We consult CDC information sources and medical professionals including the State Medical Director, Dr. (Dan) Edney,” Holland said. “We coordinate with City of Vicksburg leadership. And we listen to our community. At this point, we have not entertained a new general mask mandate for our county.”

Even though increased COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are prompting precautions nationwide, it doesn’t look like another mask mandate is in the near future for the Warren County area.

For the week of Aug. 26 in Mississippi, the statewide number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 was 184 beds, which was approximately seven more beds than the week before. The most significant jump in COVID-related hospitalizations for August was the week of  Aug. 12 to Aug. 19, which had a 51-bed jump, according to the Mississippi Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control websites.

If someone feels as if they need a mask to stay protected from COVID-19, it is advised to use masks that are made especially for the medical profession. The CDC, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the American Medical Association all recommend the use of  N95 or KN95 masks as protection from COVID-19 as well as other respiratory ailments.

NBC News reports that Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and Novavax are all coming out with new vaccine boosters this month. The CDC indicated that these new vaccines are supposed to protect against three new COVID variants: BA.2.86 omicron subvariant, EG.5 omicron subvariant and omicron subvariant FL.1.5.1.