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Natchez to consider extending city’s stay-at-home order

NATCHEZ — Adams County may be getting ready to slowly reopen some businesses that were closed for the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the county is “not out of the woods” yet, officials said during a virtual Tuesday meeting of the Natchez Mayor and Board of Aldermen.

After hearing the report, aldermen agreed to hold a special called meeting on Thursday to readdress the city’s stay-at-home order that is set to expire on Thursday.

The order has been in to effect since March 25, and restricts gatherings of people by closing some public spaces and requires businesses to adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines pertaining to COVID-19.

Two weeks ago when the order was originally scheduled to expire, aldermen agreed to extend it until April 30, which is Thursday.

Officials said before they revisit extending the order again or amending the order they would first develop a re-opening strategy with input from the Natchez COVID-19 Task Force and an Economic Task Force created by Natchez Inc.

William Thames, who is a member of the Natchez COVID-19 Task Force, provided an update on COVID-19 data to officials during Tuesday’s meeting.

“We have been hopeful that we were beginning to see a peaking of the figures, those being the number of newly identified cases, new deaths and certainly the number of local cases here in Adams County — hospitalized patients as well as new positive cases in our long-term care facilities and the detention center on U.S. 84,” Thames said. “We had, last week, seen the highest number of hospitalized and newly identified cases that we’ve had thus far in our now two-month experience with the coronavirus. It began to appear that we were indeed leveling and maybe even bending the curve. … Unfortunately (Tuesday) we did receive new data showing a sudden jump in hospitalized patients (in the state.) … I realize that one day’s data does not a trend make. However, this shows us that we’re still not out of the woods as a state nor are we as a county.”

On Tuesday, Merit Health Natchez CEO Lance Boyd announced the hospital would soon begin performing elective surgeries and procedures again and emphasized that patients shouldn’t avoid taking care of their health needs for fear that they may be exposed to the virus at the hospital, Thames said.

“Merit Health Natchez is eager to be able to resume other vital healthcare delivery. We have very unfortunate situations where patients are hesitant to come to the hospital because they fear being at risk of exposure and that has had a detrimental effect on some of our local citizens,” Thames said, adding the hospital has taken measures to sanitize and distance chairs in the waiting areas and isolate the possibly infected and COVID-19 patients.

For other businesses, Thames said the city shouldn’t ease up on its precautionary closures until there has been a consistent decrease in the number of COVID-19 cases and the number of infected patients who have died, were hospitalized, or were placed on ventilators.

“We shouldn’t be thinking that we are out of the curve or lessen any of our precautions until we’ve shown 14 consecutive days of reduction in these metrics. We, by no means, are there yet. We haven’t even seen more than a day’s worth of consistent reduction in the impact of this disease has on our state or even our local community.”