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City to start enforcing wearing of masks by business employers, employees

Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell said the city will begin enforcing its order that masks be worn by all employees and employers of Natchez businesses doing face-to-face business.

Grennell said to members of the mayor’s Coronavirus Taskforce that the Natchez Police Department will begin enforcing the use of masks on Monday as required by the city’s Back to Business order and also by Gov. Tate Reeve’s orders that apply to all state restaurants, gyms, barbershops and salons. The city’s order makes mask usage mandatory for all businesses in the city limits.

Grennell said the NPD will first issue a warning to businesses that are found to have employees conducting face-to-face business without wearing masks.

If the violations continue, Grennell said citations will be issued to the employees and to business owners. Grennell said the city is prepared to pull the licenses of businesses that flagrantly ignore the Back to Business order approved by the city and in effect until May 31.

When asked about the enforcement of customers wearing masks, Grennell said the city was focusing on what he knew the city could enforce after discussing the matter with city attorney Bob Latham.

Latham said during the meeting that enforcement wasn’t so much an issue as was the likelihood of overwhelming the local police department if they were charged with making sure customers also wore masks.

The mayor said he is focusing on the businesses and their compliance. Hopefully the more education that is done the more customers will comply. There is no plan to fine customers at this point, Grennell said.

Ward 3 Alderwoman Sarah Carter Smith said she was worried about putting employees at risk of confronting customers who are not willing to wear masks, especially in light of recent reports of escalating violence in other parts of the country from customers who refuse to wear masks.

“We don’t want confrontation that escalates to physical altercations,” task force member William Thames said.

“The best thing to do is to concentrate on (employers) and get the word out,” Latham said.

Dr. Blane Mire said mask usage by employees and customers was preferable. Mire said recent case studies show how easily one infected person can spread the virus to multiple people in small groups and small spaces.

Mire said one case report describes how one man in Chicago spread the virus to up to 15 people after attending a birthday party, a funeral and other establishments. Three of the people infected have since died.

“Now is not the time to relax,” Mire said.

Mire said employees who are at risk of long-term exposure to the virus, because they are either working in the same setting while serving customers will be partially protected by wearing masks. The risk would be significantly lower for employees and customers if everyone wore masks, Mire said.