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City mask mandate expires; area still under state mandate

NATCHEZ — A statewide mask mandate is in effect until Monday, Aug. 17, and a countywide mask mandate is in effect until Sept. 8 unless officials take further action.

Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson said duplicate measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 from the city and Adams County Emergency Operations Center should be consolidated.

“The City of Natchez from this point forward is under the authority of the governor and the EOC,” Gibson said. “The city is falling in step, as all cities do, with the governor and EOC of each respective county.”

Barry Bequette, a Natchez resident and professor of agriculture and science at Alcorn State University, voiced his opposition to the city imposing a mask mandate during Tuesday’s meeting.

“There was a period of time when the state wasn’t under a mask mandate and the City of Natchez was. But the state mandate won’t last forever,” Bequette said. “I’m asking for the City of Natchez to allow the state to dictate whether there should be a mask mandate in place and to not be more restrictive than the State of Mississippi.”

Bequette also said “Stay Home” signs continue to greet travelers coming into Natchez. Many businesses struggle as a result, he said.

Bequette listed off more than a dozen businesses that have closed in recent months, some before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gibson agreed with Bequette that the signs should be removed.

“We do not want stay home signs. No, we want to celebrate an open economy because it is critical to our survival as a city,” Gibson said. “We can’t remove those signs that have been purchased by private property owners but we do encourage them to remove them because our economy has been open for quite some time.”