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Emergency departments turn their focus to curtailing threat posed by COVID-19

The Vicksburg Police Department is implementing a new shift plan as part of a series of operational changes as city officials take steps to control the spread of COVID-19.

Those steps also include a city-wide curfew that begins Monday.

“We had to restructure our shifts,” Police Chief Milton Moore said Sunday during a press conference where Mayor George Flaggs announced new measures to curtail the spread of the virus. “We were working four shifts (with) 12-hour days. We had to combine our shifts, so now we’re working three shifts, 8-hour days, and that will allow me to put more boots on the ground per shift.”

Each shift, he said, will be commanded by a deputy chief, freeing more officers to work in patrol.

The city curfew will be from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. each day and will last at least the next 14 days.

Moore said he has instructed officers to wear gloves, and hand sanitizer has been issued. He said officers are also required to disinfect their cars.

“When we do handcuff someone, and they have person-to-person contact, they’ve been advised to use their gloves,” he said.

Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace said he has not made any decisions on staffing for a curfew, pending direction from the Board of Supervisors.

“We will certainly be in concert with the Board of Supervisors and whatever regulations they will do.”

Pace said March 18 that access to the sheriff’s office is restricted to the building’s lobby, and people are being asked, if possible, to call the sheriff’s office if they need to file a report or if they need a copy of the report. He said incident reports can be taken over the phone, and if someone needs a copy of a record, “We will mail it to them at the address on the report.”

If someone comes to the sheriff’s office sick or shows signs of potential COVID-19, he said, they will be asked to leave the lobby and an officer will go talk with them outside the building at a safe distance.

Jail access, Pace said, is restricted to essential workers, officers bringing prisoners for booking and attorneys who have appointments during business hours with clients housed in the jail.

All people entering the jail are checked to determine if they have a fever or show other symptoms of flu-like illness or COVID-19.

“We have a nurse on staff and she will screen everybody coming in,” he said. “If a prisoner is sick or shows symptoms of the virus, they will be placed in a holding cell.”

Vicksburg Fire Chief Craig Danczyk said he has initiated a vacation freeze for the department.

“We will provide all the services we normally provide and we will have additional people on duty, so you should not see any disruption in those services,” he said. “We will continue to re-evaluate the dynamic situation, and if we have to take additional measures we will.”

The fire department’s ambulance service covers the city and Warren County.

Danczyk said the fire department does not perform tests for COVID-19, and recommended people who believe they have symptoms to call their personal health care provider for help.

He said the fire department will respond to emergency calls “and we want to limit the unnecessary calls to 911; we want to limit the unnecessary needs for service, so we are asking the public to use your good judgment. If you have questions, call your physician.

“If they give you instructions, follow their instructions.”

Danczyk, who is also chairman of the Vicksburg-Warren 911 Board of Directors, said 911 dispatchers have been instructed to ask additional questions about COVID-19 symptoms when they receive calls.

“This is to help screen and expedite service,” he said. “So if you don’t meet the criteria — you don’t have the symptoms — they’ll know that.

“If we as health care providers are dispatched to someone who meets the criteria, they’ll give us that sensitive information, so our paramedics and EMTs can respond, knowing this meets the criteria, they’ll be able to take extra precautions.”