COVID-19 Safety Officer position not a good idea

Published 10:02 pm Thursday, December 10, 2020

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A proposal approved by the Adams County Board of Supervisors on Monday to hire a COVID-19 safety officer is well intentioned but is not a good idea.

The Natchez Mayor and Board of Aldermen on Tuesday took under advisement the county’s proposal to split the officer’s $3,200 four-month salary.

COVID-19 case numbers are reaching all-time highs in Adams County, the state and the nation some nine months into the pandemic, and many people are lax in following or enforcing COVID-19 protocols.

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Most hospitals in the state and nation are at or near capacity, and many healthcare workers are at the point of exhaustion.

Also, as we enter the Christmas season, we are experiencing a post-Thanksgiving COVID-19 case load bump, and it is more important than ever to follow recommended Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 protocols and state and local guidelines.

That said, while the sentiment behind the proposal to create a COVID-19 safety officer position is well intentioned, it was clearly not well thought out.

As proposed, the new position, which would last for three or four months, would pay an individual $3,200 to go to businesses and inform them if customers and employees were not following proper protocols.

The safety officer would have no authority to issue citations or levy fines, but rather would report back to the sheriff or the chief of police.

In effect, the officer would have no authority to enforce the rules the officer would be hired to enforce.

Therefore, a better plan would be to have police officers and deputies include COVID-19 enforcement in their regular rounds and to allow them to issue citations to put some teeth in the enforcement.