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Mayor reiterates importance of complying with social distancing, including in grocery stores

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(Screen grab from VTV recording April 6, 2020)

Mayor George Flaggs, Jr. shocked many people listening to Monday’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting when he mentioned that doctors from the coronavirus task force could force a shutdown on pharmacies and grocery stores as soon as next week.

Reached after the meeting, Flaggs clarified that he has spoken with representatives from the area’s grocery and big box stores, as well as doctors with the state task force, and he has put the onus of whether they will be allowed to stay open in Vicksburg on the stores.

To comply with the most recent state orders, the stores must enforce social distancing, limit the number of shoppers in the stores at any one time as well as providing hand sanitizers and insisting customers wear masks while shopping, Flaggs said.

He emphasized that he doesn’t want to shut anyone down, but the situation is serious enough that protocols must be followed and enforced, even in essential businesses like grocery stores.

“This is serious,” he said repeatedly.

To their credit, Walmart announced new procedures for shoppers last week to enforce social distancing guidelines in their stores nationwide.

Flaggs said the task force doctors feel strongly on this matter due to the rate of infection for grocery store and pharmacy employees.

“With the shelter in place order in effect, that actually means that you stop going to the store unless you have no other choice,” wrote task force member Dr. Daniel Edney in a Facebook post Sunday. “Think about the common link in the community that is left … stores. Yes, the grocery stores are staying open but this is for emergencies—not normal shopping. You need to have enough supplies to get through at least 2 weeks and up to 4 weeks WITHOUT going to the store.”

Doctors are looking at the incredibly high numbers in New York state, which has lost as many as 600 people per day due to the virus.

Gov. Tate Reeves has listed pharmacies and grocery stores as essential businesses in his executive orders, including in the shelter-in-place order that took effect on April 3. He has also said that no municipal or county government can do less than his orders, but are free to do more.

“Whether you agree or disagree with the governor, I’m not going to be against him,” Flaggs said.

According to Flaggs, 1.4 billion dollars will be given to the state of Mississippi to help with financial constraints during the COVID-19 pandemic. After losing tax revenue from Sports Force Park, casinos and the tourism industry Flaggs will cooperate with Reeves by all means necessary.

“I don’t know how the state will reimburse cities, but if Gov. Reeves is gonna determine how much money I get then I’m not gonna bite the hand that feeds me,” he said.

In Mississippi, Mayor Flaggs believes we are two weeks ahead of flattening the apex curve, but the next two weeks will be the worst so far.

“This is going to be a tough week,” Flaggs said.

Warren County currently sits at five confirmed COVID-19 cases. Mayor Flaggs does not believe these numbers reflect the drive-through testing conducted in Vicksburg last week.

“It is a seven-day turnaround, and tomorrow is the seventh day, so we may or may not see a spike in our numbers,” Flaggs said.

Flaggs said according to other COVID-19 models one out of five tests come back positive, and he is not aware of the total number of individuals tested at the testing center. Reportedly, some 45 people were tested.

“Whatever you do for the next week, God, please use social distancing. Use all sanitary things we need to do, and please wash your hands,” Flaggs said.

“This house is about to burn. You can either stay in it or you can get out because on the other side of this curve, it’s only gonna be the living,” he added.

Curfews continue for the city from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. for adults and 7:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. for ages 17 and under.

The Vicksburg City Hall will remain open, but the doors will be locked to the public. Flaggs said the phone number is posted on the door, and if you need something, just call the number provided and someone will assist you. Many city employees may be working from home, but Flaggs made it clear employees should only be working on City of Vicksburg work tasks.

“If you are working another job during the hours you should be working this job, and I got anything to do with it, with every fiber in my body you will be fired,” Flaggs said. “We are not going to pay you twice.”

Flaggs used grass cutting as an example.

“If you cut grass for the City of Vicksburg, and you start cutting grass on private property while on the city time, God as my witness you’re fired,” he said.

“We are all in this together,” Flaggs added. “We all can manage this. We all can get to the other side, but we gotta use every precaution we can.”

Mayor Flaggs will be taking questions during a Facebook Q&A session tonight at 6 p.m. You can watch and ask questions on the Vicksburg Daily News Facebook page.

Ronni Mott contributed to this report.

COVID-19

Half of Mississippi’s counties are now under governor’s mask mandates

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Gov. Tate Reeves during a news conference Oct. 19, 2020. (photo via video screen grab)

Tuesday, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves announced a continuation of his county-level attempt to lower the number of COVID-19 cases in Mississippi by adding 19 counties to the list of those under expanded restrictions.

Half of Mississippi’s counties — 41 of 82 — are now under mask mandates. The counties added Tuesday are Alcorn, Attala, Bolivar, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Jefferson Davis, Jones, Lafayette, Lawrence, Lincoln, Lowndes, Neshoba, Panola, Perry, Prentiss, Stone, Tippah, Tishomingo and Union. Click here to see a map showing the rest of the counties under the expanded restrictions and self-imposed mask mandates.

“This is a critical time,” Reeves said of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, asking Mississippians to please be extra cautious and look out for loved ones.

“There is much more COVID-19 around us,” he added, emphasizing that there is a greater risk to unknowingly pass the virus to loved ones as the state experiences a surge in new cases.

“The risk is greater,” he said.

Numerous health officials have called on the governor to issue a statewide mask mandate, but so far, he has resisted taking that action.

“If you issue the mask mandates on a county-by-county basis, based on where the number of cases is the largest, then that is the best strategy to convince the most number of our fellow Mississippians to wear a mask,” Reeves said.

To prove the point, the governor compared other states where mask mandates have been in place for months that now have much higher rates of infection than Mississippi.

He also said that he believes wearing a mask is helpful in slowing the spread of the virus and urged all Mississippi residents to wear masks in public.

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Officials urging comments to support Corps’ Yazoo Backwater statement

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U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith spoke with flood victims at Valley Park, Miss., in 2019. (Photo by David Day)

State officials are urging Mississippians to weigh in on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Environmental Impact Statement in support of finishing the Yazoo Backwater Pumps by the Monday deadline.

“We’ve seen the devastation that the backwater flooding has caused to Mississippi agriculture, farmers, ranchers and wildlife for years now, unnecessarily. The solution is simple, we need to finish the Yazoo Pump Project, which would prevent flood damage to urban and agricultural areas throughout the state for years to come,” said Andy Gipson, commissioner of agriculture and commerce, in a statement.

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently accepting comments from citizens through Monday, Nov. 30, on the Yazoo Area Pump Project, and I encourage all Mississippians to take a moment and submit a comment of support. We need to stand up for our friends in the Mississippi South Delta and help them in their time of need. It’s time to finish the pumps.”

Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann tweeted a brief video Monday in support of the finishing the pumps.

Comments must be submitted by Monday, Nov. 30. Submit comments using one of the following methods:

  • Text PUMPS to 50457.
  • Send a voicemail or text message to 601-392-2237.
  • Go to https://www.forgottenbackwaterflood.com/ or https://finishthepumps.com/ to fill out an online form to send to the Corps.
  • Fill out a postcard available at sites around the state including Valley Park Elevator in Valley Park, Lo-Sto and Yore Convenience Store in Eagle Lake, Mississippi Ag Company and Chuck’s Dairy Bar in Rolling Fork, Mississippi Levee Board and Sherman’s Restaurant in Greenville, Toney’s Grill in Vicksburg and the Mississippi Delta Council in Stoneville.
  • Send an email to [email protected]
  • Write to the Corps at the following address:
    District Engineer
    S. Army Corps of Engineers
    Vicksburg District
    4155 Clay Street
    Vicksburg, MS 39183-3435
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Business

Cars line up on Starbucks’ opening day

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Cars lined up down the block on Starbucks' opening day Tuesday. (photo by Thomas Parker)

Cars lined up Tuesday at the new Vicksburg Starbucks drive-thru window to get a first taste of the chain’s coffee beverages and food offerings.

Starbucks, based in Seattle, Washington, announced last year that it was adding a location in Vicksburg at 3405 Halls Ferry Road, and many in the community were eagerly awaiting the chance visit the well-known coffee shop. Before, if a Vicksburg resident wanted Starbucks, they would have to drive about 30 minutes to Clinton for the nearest location.

It remains to be seen how business will hold up after the initial rush subsides. Some are curious how the opening will impact Vicksburg’s coffee shop Cafe Paradiso, a local favorite, which is just a stone’s throw away in an adjacent strip center.

The opening and public opinion on Starbuck’s corporate policies have been hot topics on social media in recent weeks. Tuesday, many locals posted photos of their purchased Starbucks items.

The Vicksburg location will be open six days a week from 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and is closed Sundays.

Thomas Parker contributed to this story.

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