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City mask mandate extended

NATCHEZ — The Natchez Mayor and Board of Aldermen extended the city’s mask mandate until Aug. 11 during their Tuesday meeting.

A board order established by both the Natchez Mayor and Board of Aldermen and Adams County Board of Supervisors on July 3 mandates that facial coverings be worn in and outside of businesses and public spaces where social distancing of 6 feet or more is difficult to maintain.

“The order expires July 31 and the EOC (Natchez-Adams County Emergency Operations Center) has suggested that the Board of Aldermen consider extending that mask mandate until Aug. 17,” Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson said during Tuesday’s regularly scheduled board meeting. “It is the decision of the board whether we extend it to Aug. 17, whether we extend it to some other date, whether we do away with it altogether or whether we adopt the governor’s guidelines as our own — including his guidelines for wearing masks.”

Executive Orders passed by Gov. Tate Reeves pose more strict regulations — such as mandatory facial coverings — on Mississippi counties with the highest concentration of COVID-19 cases, excluding Adams County.

Gibson said he had heard from Natchez residents on both sides — some urging city officials to support the mandate because of health and safety concerns and others urging them to let it expire because they felt it violated their personal rights by not allowing them to keep health conditions preventing them from wearing masks private.

“I think at the end of the day it boils down to personal responsibility,” Gibson said. “… We as Americans have our sacred freedoms but we also have a long-standing tradition in this country where one person’s freedom ends where another person’s freedom begins. We don’t have the freedom to endanger one another. … It is a small ask to encourage people to wear masks so that we can keep our businesses going and so we can keep our numbers going in the right direction and to avoid a spike that would put a serious strain on our already full hospital and our healthcare providers. … There have been situations just recently all across the state where hospitals are having to shuttle patients from here to there and go through creative extremes just to care for COVID patients.

“We don’t … want a situation where we throw the doors wide open today thinking we are doing the right thing and then next month — and not of our own volition but by order of the governor — have to shut our economy down. That has already occurred in some counties of our state. We don’t want that to occur in Adams County.”

Ward 1 Alderwoman Valencia Hall offered a motion to adopt the governor’s guidelines for wearing masks. An amendment to Hall’s motion was offered by Ward 3 Alderwoman Sarah Carter-Smith that would also extend the local mask mandate until the next regular board meeting on Aug. 11, which would give officials time to review COVID-19 numbers and decide again whether to continue the mask mandate, she said. The motion passed unanimously.

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