Mayor and city chiefs updated the public in live streaming session

Mayor and city chiefs updated the public in live streaming session

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On Wednesday, Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr. hosted another Facebook live question and answer session, this time from the board meeting room in the Robert M. Walker building. Vicksburg Police Chief Milton Moore and Vicksburg Fire Chief Craig Danczyk joined Flaggs to provide comments and answer questions from the online audience.

Mayor Flaggs opened the session by reviewing several key areas covered in the city’s resolutions regarding COVID-19. As he did in Monday’s live session, he addressed the need for retailers to control the number of people at any one time in their stores. The mayor has had numerous conference calls this week with owners and managers of groceries, dollar stores and pharmacies and has asked them to cooperate on this issue. As if in response, retail giants such as Walmart and Kroger announced the steps they are taking to comply with social distancing guidelines, including restricting the number of shoppers in their stores at any given time.

Flaggs also reiterated his request for the public to only send one person into stores and to stop overbuying and hoarding necessities. “Leave some for the next person,” he said.

The mayor addressed the curfews he has imposed on the city.

“If forced to, I will change the curfew to 7:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m.,” for everyone, he said at one point.

The remark caused a firestorm of reactions from viewers. Currently, the curfew for adults is from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. nightly, with a longer curfew for juveniles from 7:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. Flaggs said extending the longer curfew to everyone was an option if he couldn’t gain the cooperation from the public or if the COVID-19 case load spikes in Vicksburg and Warren County.

Chief Danczyk reported that the Vicksburg Fire Department continues to function at high capacity. All vacation days have been canceled.

“Everyone is showing up for work and following the guidelines,” he said.

At the moment, the fire department has one ambulance dedicated to potential COVID-19 response while maintaining four ambulances for “normal” emergency operations. Additionally, the department maintains three more units that can be online in minutes if call volume dictates. The chief said current levels of personal protective equipment could carry the department well into the month of May, adding that supplies are being replenished as items become available.

Chief Moore said that overall, the Vicksburg Police Department was functioning very well with the re-alignment of shifts from four to three allowing his agency to have more enforcement units on the streets during this crisis. He added that issuing citations is not the goal of the department, but his officers were still finding some non-compliant individuals out during curfew hours. The agency has made several felony arrests since the curfew was put in place on April 3 as a result of curfew-related traffic stops.

Flaggs and Moore both reiterated that the maximum penalty for curfew violations is a $1000 fine and 90 days in jail.

To reduce the city’s inmate population during the crisis, Moore said he has worked with municipal judges to allow some people to be released for various low-level offenses on a summons to return by a specified date or with an ankle monitor. Vicksburg also houses inmates in Claiborne, Issaquena and Madison counties.

In response to questions, Moore said that house parties should have no more than 10 attendees. He also conceded that police are seeing an increase in domestic calls, particularly in the early evening hours. That increase is in line with what domestic violence agencies around the world are seeing. Shelter-in-place orders can be deadly to people already in violent relationships, and extended periods together without an escape valve can escalate a difficult relationship into a violent one.

Flaggs said he is monitoring the situation closely and will be looking at the data on April 18 before the expiration of current orders on April 20. He reminded residents that failure to comply with the city’s emergency ordinances could result in more restrictions.

“I will not hesitate to pull the trigger to protect the people of Vicksburg,” Flaggs said.