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Natchez, Adams County pass resolutions requiring facial coverings

NATCHEZ — Effective immediately, most Adams County and Natchez residents and visitors are required to wear facial coverings in public under certain conditions and with a few exceptions or face a fine.

The action comes after Adams County and Natchez city officials held a joint meeting Friday and unanimously passed resolutions requiring facial masks to be worn in public places when social distancing of 6 feet or more is not possible.

(Jump to the bottom of this story for an overview of guidelines or the complete City of Natchez resolution can be viewed here; and Adams County’s resolution can be viewed here. A poster for businesses to display can be downloaded here. The guidelines also will be in effect for spectators at the Fourth of July Fireworks show at 9 p.m. Saturday over the Mississippi River, officials said.)

The City of Natchez resolution also recommends people shelter in place and only go out for essential reasons such as medical and dental appointments or to purchase necessary supplies. The orders come after local officials noticed a rise in active COVID-19 cases in Adams County.

On Thursday, Adams County Emergency Management Director Robert Bradford said he noticed a sharp rise in local COVID-19 numbers and organized a meeting to suggest the city and county hold a joint meeting Friday to consider passing resolutions requiring people to wear face masks in public and to maintain social distance.

All members of both the Adams County Board of Supervisors and the Natchez Mayor and Board of Aldermen participated in a Friday teleconference meeting to discuss the resolutions drafted by Adams County Attorney Scott Slover and Natchez City Attorney Robert Latham.

The two entities worked together, officials said, so the resolutions would be as similar as possible in the city and county to minimize any confusion.

During discussion of the matter, Natchez COVID-19 Task Force member Norma Williams, who tracks COVID-19 numbers for the group, presented the latest statistics.

“Looking at just the past seven days, June 25 through July 1, Adams County has had 33 new COVID cases bringing our total up to 267, so unfortunately that is a 12.4% increase in cases,” Williams said. “Thankfully, we haven’t had any new deaths so we are holding at 18 deaths although that makes our fatality rate almost 7% at 6.74%.”

Bradford said he had seen a spike in Adams County COVID-19 cases in recent days.

“We look at our total number of active cases that we have at one time in our county based on our population,” Bradford said, adding that in past weeks the highest numbers of active cases in the county were between 21 and 23. “Right now we are almost at 45 at one time and that is a big deal. We need to do something to help curb the spread of this COVID-19 here in Adams County.”

Bradford said he does not want the hospital to get overwhelmed so he recommended the county and city meet to adopt resolutions to help curb the spread of COVID-19 throughout the county

“Let us be proactive at putting out ordinances and things that we can to help mitigate and prevent spread of COVID-19 so we can get the word out to the community,” Bradford said. “If we are going to issue out masks, we have got to make sure people are wearing them because if we are not going to have things in place to protect people there is no sense in just giving out masks if people are not wearing them. I asked these boards, both boards today, to consider from a safety standpoint from the emergency management side that we don’t want to get into our secondary emergency management plan to help us curb the spread of this COVID-19.”

Grennell then offered a recommendation to the board of aldermen.

“It is my recommendation to the board of aldermen that we put a policy in place where there is a mandatory order from the City of Natchez for the citizens to wear a mask or some type of face covering when they go into any type of retail or any type of place where there are gatherings of people,” Grennell said.

Grennell then turned the meeting over to Adams County Board of Supervisors President Ricky Gray.

Gray said he recently got a call from a county resident who told him seven members of their family had been affected by the new coronavirus.

“This is real serious and we are going in the wrong direction,” Gray said. “So we came to the conclusion that we are going to have to do what is best for the citizens of Natchez and Adams County and that is making sure that they wear face coverings, stay 6 feet apart and continue to sanitize and wash their hands and that is what is best for the community.”

After some discussion both boards took up motions for resolutions independently.

Ward 1 Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux Mathis moved that the city adopt the facial covering resolution. The motion was seconded by Ward 5 Alderman Benjamin Davis and passed unanimously with all aldermen in attendance.

District 3 Supervisor Angela Hutchins moved that the county adopt the facial covering resolution. The motion was seconded by District 5 Supervisor Warren Gaines and passed unanimously with all supervisors in attendance.

The orders, effective immediately, will remain in effect until July 31 or until the order is rescinded if the numbers go down, officials said.

Natchez police will deliver copies of the city’s order to businesses in Natchez and Adams County Sheriff’s deputies will deliver copies of the county’s order to businesses in the county.

Below is an outline of the City of Natchez order:

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE MAYOR AND BOARD OF

ALDERMEN of the City of Natchez, that the City does hereby issue its Stay At Home Order for the following emergency measures that shall take effect immediately, and remain in full force and effect until 11:59 p.m. on July31, 2020, unless said Stay at Home Order is rescinded by the governmental authority of the City of Natchez or modified and extended as provided for herein, to protect the public health, safety and welfare of the community from the spread of a contagious or infectious disease and to eliminate or limit injuries or deaths that may occur in the absence of such measures.

Section 1: Effective immediately, and to remain in full force and effect until 11:59 p.m. on July 31, 2020, unless rescinded, modified or extended by Motion and Order of the governing authorities of the City of Natchez, the governing authorities are recommending that all citizens of the City of Natchez stay at home until further direction by the City and that all citizens remain at home unless it is essential to your health, safety and welfare to leave your home. Travel to the grocery store, medical, dental and other health related appointments are deemed essential. The citizens are encouraged to maintain social distancing at all times. The governing authorities encourage all citizens to exercise outdoors provided that you should not congregate in groups of more than 20 persons while maintaining proper social distancing during all times of exercising.

Section 2: Effective immediately, and to remain in full force and effect until 11:59 p.m. on July 31, 2020, unless rescinded, modified or extended by Motion and Order of the governing authorities of the City of Natchez, the citizens and businesses of the City of Natchez shall be ordered mandated to follow and abide by the following rules and regulations:

Wearing a face covering in public places and/or when working. Any individual who is over age four and able to medically tolerate a face covering shall be required to cover their nose and mouth with a face covering when in a public place and unable to maintain at least six feet of social distancing. Face coverings are required in public indoor spaces such as stores and public outdoor spaces.

A face covering shall be considered a device to cover the nose and mouth of a person to impede the spread of saliva or other fluids during speaking, coughing, sneezing or other intentional or involuntary action. Medical grade masks are not required; coverings may be fashioned from scarves, bandanas, handkerchiefs, or other suitable fabrics.

Face coverings do not need to be worn in the following circumstances:

When exercising outside or engaging in physical activity outside;

When driving alone or with passengers who are part of the same household as the driver;

When doing so poses a greater mental or physical health, safety, or security risk such as anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cover without assistance.

For purposes of this subsection, “safety risk” shall include external factors, such as, but not limited to: where wearing a face covering may pose a risk to persons working on ladders or at significant heights, wearing other respiratory protection, heavy physical exertion or operating heavy equipment or operating in an environment where a face coving hinders communications. However, employers are encouraged to structure work to promote social distancing and limit close contact as much as possible within workplaces where face coverings may pose such risks;

When pumping gas;

When in a building or activity that requires security surveillance or

Screening, (for example, banks);

When working alone in separate office spaces or in non-public workplaces where six feet of social distancing may be consistently maintained; or

When eating or drinking in public at a restaurant, bar, or other food or beverage establishment. A face covering must be worn when entering or exiting any such establishment, and when walking around such establishment and six feet of social distancing cannot be maintained.

Face Coverings – Commercial Entities and Not withstanding any contrary provisions in prior executive orders and consistent with the foregoing provisions stated within this order, all commercial entities, businesses, establishments, restaurants, bars, theatre houses, auditoriums, libraries, and museums providing goods or services directly to the public must require that all employees, patrons, customers, and visitors to the commercial entity’s business premises or other facilities wear face coverings when in an area or performing an activity where social distancing of a minimum of six feet cannot be maintained. Such commercial entities and establishments listed in this paragraph must require that all employees, patrons, customers, and visitors wear a face covering when entering or exiting any such facility, and when walking around in any such facility and six feet of social distancing cannot be maintained.

Such commercial entities, establishments, and facilities listed in this paragraph must post the face covering requirement stated in this Stay at Home Order in a conspicuous location and of sufficient size at the entrance of the business sufficient to provide notice to employees and visitors.

Enforce ability and Prosecution. If the Chief of Police or any officer acting under his command determines that a violation of this Stay at Home Order has occurred, the Chief of Police or such any officer acting under his command may issue a citation for the violation of any provisions of this Order. Any person or business that violates the mandates of this Stay at Home Order shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and may be subject to the fines and penalties set forth in the City of Natchez Code of Ordinances. The initial fines for citizens shall be $50.00 for each violation. The initial fines for businesses shall be $100.00.  All proceedings described herein shall be conducted in accordance with Mississippi

 

Closure for Failure to Comply with Applicable Guidelines. If a business is issued more than 3 violations for violating any of the provisions of this Order and Regulation, the said business may be subject to the termination of its privilege license to do business in the City of Natchez. At such time that a business violates the provisions of this Order and Regulation, the said business shall be cited to appear before the Mayor and Board of Aldermen to show cause why said business’ privilege license should not be cancelled and withdrawn by the City of Natchez.

 

Effective Date; Duration. This Order shall be effective immediately and remain in full force and effect until 12:59 p.m. July 31, 2020 or until modified, amended, rescinded, superseded, or terminated by Motion and Order of the Board of

 

Applicability; This Order supersedes and replaces any contrary provision in any prior Stay at Home Order. Any provisions within this Order that (i) conflict(s) with any state or federal law or constitutional provision, or (ii) conflict(s) with or are superseded by a current or subsequently-issued Executive Order of the Governor or the President of the United States solely to the extent such Executive Order (a) expressly preempts the substance of this Order or (b) imposes stricter guidelines and closures than set forth herein, shall be deemed inapplicable and deemed to be severed from this Order, with the remainder of this Order remaining intact and in full force and effect.

 

This Stay at Home Order shall be: (1) promptly filed with the City Clerk; (2) distributed to the news media and other organizations calculated to bring its contents to the attention of the general public; and (3) distributed to others as necessary to ensure proper implementation of this Order.

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