The McComb city board on Tuesday banned gatherings of more than 10 people and mandated social distancing throughout the city in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
The new directive gives police officers the power to enforce the recommendations of the CDC, but the resolution, which was written by board attorney Angela Cockerham, does not impose any jail times or fines on violators.
Selectman Donovan Hill, who participated in the meeting over the phone, asked McComb Police Chief Damian Gatlin if officers would be able to arrest violators.
“A lot of citizens may not find this important or as severe as everybody else may find it,” Hill said, adding that he wanted to talk with business owners.
Gatlin said officers cannot arrest anyone for violating the mandate but would give ample warning so as to not escalate the situation.
“I want to make it clear that we are asking our guys to be judicial about all situations that we encounter,” Gatlin said.
“We will give people ample time and opportunity to adjust. We will give a fair warning. We are not trying to go out and arrest any and everybody.”
Selectman Devante Johnson asked how officers could respond if someone refuses to comply with the ordnance. Gatlin said officers would be able to charge any in violation with failure to comply with the commands of a law enforcement officer.
Failure to comply falls under state law and carries a penalty of up to six months in jail or a fine of up to $500.
The mandate applies to social gatherings as well as businesses.
It requires restaurants to limit their business to takeout and drive-through orders while complying with the 10-person limit.
“Essential businesses,” such as grocery stores, convenience stores and pharmacies are exempt.
Johnson asked Mayor Quordiniah Lockley if the mandate applies to churches. Lockley, who is also a pastor, said it does not, although he believes it should. He said city officials do not want to interfere with constitutionally protected religious practices.
Lockley held a press conference Wednesday afternoon to make the mandate official with an executive order — the first the mayor has signed this year.
“I want to encourage you to stay home unless it is essential,” Lockley said during the conference. “This order was declared by the board of mayor and selectmen due to conditions of extreme peril that have arisen in the city due to COVID-19 or coronavirus.”
The mandate also includes social distancing of 6 feet, meaning a police officer who sees people standing closer than 6 feet will ask them to step away or be charged with failure to comply.
The proclamation also recommends all residents avoid attending funerals and weddings, but that will not be enforced by police.
The mandate falls in line with an executive order released by Gov. Tate Reeves on March 14.
“Failure to follow or to ignore these practices will put you, your family, first responders, healthcare workers and the general public at risk,” Lockley said.