August 15, 2020

Mississippi city, county issue face mask requirements as coronavirus spikes

Effective immediately, all Adams County and Natchez residents and visitors are required to wear facial coverings in public or face a fine after county and city officials held a joint meeting Friday and unanimously passed resolutions to that effect.

The City of Natchez resolution can be viewed here. Adams County’s resolution can be viewed here. A poster for businesses can be downloaded here.

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.

On Thursday, Adams County Emergency Management Director Robert Bradford 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 and Adams County Sheriff’s deputies will deliver copies of the county’s order to businesses in the county.