On Friday, Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs held a press conference to enact a civil emergency order that mandates mask wearing in the city while also requiring temperature checks at social gatherings, retail businesses, restaurants and bars in hopes of slowing the spread of COVID-19 in his area.  Enforcement of that order could result, according to Flaggs, in water and gas services being cut off for businesses that do not comply with mask enforcement.

Flaggs said that the city’s compliance officer recently issued a citation to a local business where their staff is not enforcing the health orders, adding that going forward if a police officer or the compliance officer enters a business and observes a violation that business will be cited.

The Mayor applauded the citizens of Vicksburg’s efforts, saying that 85-90% of people are adhering to the guidance and “doing what they need to do.” Yet, he said more had to be done to hold those accountable who were not taking this seriously.

“I’m not going to punish this whole city for what a few people are doing,” Flaggs said.  “But there are certain business that I get called that they’re saying that people are walking around in the store like this disease don’t exist in Vicksburg, Mississippi.”

Mayor Flaggs began the press conference by saying he had planned to address this on Monday, however that could not wait, he believed, based on the spike in cases Vicksburg and Warren County were seeing as reported by the Mississippi Department of Health.  He said he does not want his city to be one of the hotspots on the Governor Tate Reeves’ list where additional mandates are added county by county.

“I don’t know what the Governor’s going to do. I don’t know what the President’s going to do. But here in Vicksburg, Mississippi we’re fixing to shake it down and we’re fixing to do it right and we’re going to do it to the extent that we going to mitigate this disease and save lives,” Flaggs said.

The Mayor’s latest order is a supplemental order through January 4, 2021.  It increases the penalties for not complying while requiring additional actions by citizens and businesses.  You can find a full listing of the City of Vicksburg’s mandates here.

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

Flaggs said, “We got to be our brother’s keeper.”

The Mayor also addressed Governor Reeves and a statewide mask mandate.  Reeves has thus far resisted calls for again implementing such a statewide order, choosing instead to take a county by county approach.

Flaggs said he supports a statewide mask mandate but he thinks it is up to the Governor to use the best means he can to get to the same results, adding that there are other ways to do that without making it mandatory.

“I have spoken indirectly with the Governor.  I think the Governor is aware of what is going on and I have every reason to believe that in the next week he will take some action that would make it more hard to mitigate and to spread this disease,” Flaggs said.  “I won’t go into detail but I think that he’s about to do some things that will allow us to be in partnership from the Coast to the top of DeSoto County to Vicksburg to Meridian. I think the time has come in this state that we talk with one voice and I think that voice ought to be the Governor of the state.”

Flaggs said he would leave that up to Reeves to roll out in the next week or so.

“COVID-19 continues to rage throughout the country and here in Mississippi,” Governor Reeves tweeted Monday morning.  “Please be extra cautious and mindful during this time. We will have an update on our EO later this week—in the meantime the best tool is the same: wear a mask. Avoid crowds. Be smart. Protect loved ones.”