City, county consider pooling resources to hire COVID-19 safety officer

Published 5:28 pm Monday, December 7, 2020

NATCHEZ — Adams County officials are looking to hire a COVID-19 safety officer to patrol businesses and issue warnings to those who are out of compliance with Gov. Tate Reeves’ Safe Return Order.

The governor’s order imposes a mask mandate and gathering limitations on certain counties in the state.

Adams County was added to the list of areas included in the Safe Return Order’s mask mandate and gathering limitations on Dec. 1, which is in effect through Dec. 11 unless it is extended.

Adams County Emergency Management Director Robert Bradford proposed the City of Natchez and Adams County pool resources hire someone who could issue warnings and report repeat violations to the Emergency Operations Center for a total of $3,200 for a four-month period.

Their primary purpose would be to communicate with business owners and managers and provide them with the latest information about COVID-19 and how to help their business comply with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, Bradford said, adding the officers would not have any official capacity to issue fines or make arrests.

Bradford said $1,600 of the cost could be paid by the City of Natchez and $1,600 by Adams County, which could possibly be reimbursed by the federal CARES Act.

During Monday’s regularly scheduled meeting of the Adams County Board of Supervisors, the board approved Bradford’s proposal unanimously.

Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson said after the meeting that he also supported the Emergency Operations Center’s plans and that the action of hiring a COVID-19 safety officer would be addressed at the next Natchez Board of Alderman meeting.

“We encourage people to continue doing the right thing,” Gibson said. “Do the right thing, wear the mask and keep the economy open.”

Additionally, all events that are open to the public must first be approved by the Emergency Operations Center while the city and county are under state order, Bradford said.

While Adams County is under the executive order, masks or face coverings are mandatory in all public spaces where social distancing of 6 feet or more is not possible except where food or drink is being consumed; facial ID or visibility of the nose or mouth is needed; or if a person is engaging in physical exercise, public speeches or performances.

The order also limits indoor gatherings to no more than 10 people and outdoor gatherings to no more than 50 people where social distancing is not possible.

“We have to make sure we adhere to those guidelines,” Bradford said. “All Natchez-Adams County gathering requests must be approved by the EOC if they are open to the community while we are on the governor’s list during COVID-19 pandemic.”