On Monday, Sept. 7, the Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors voted to impose a curfew on the county to cut down on gatherings of citizens amidst COVID-19.
According to Rob Roberson, the Board of Supervisors' attorney, the curfew is in place from 12 a.m. to 5 a.m. every day with a maximum fine of $500 for those who break curfew. Roberson assures there will be certain exceptions, such as those commuting to and from work, parents picking up children from sports events or the like and any type of emergency situation.
District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer believes the curfew is justified with recent gatherings putting stress on the county and its law enforcement.
"The rulings of the curfew are very simple. We are trying to make sure that we are preventing large gatherings late at night. Recent gatherings are causing a lot of stress on residents and on the sheriff's department trying to maintain these events," Trainer said.
Trainer thinks the curfew is important at this time both as a measure to slow the spread of COVID-19, as well as a method of maintaining public safety.
"These gatherings are causing stress on our public safety department, and then with COVID-19, we are concerned about the spread. With this curfew, we are trying to see if we can slow the spread. We want to see if we can have a positive impact on the recent rise in infections that the county has had," Trainer said. "We are trying to do what we can to make sure the virus does not spread, and we are trying to maintain law and order in our community."
Roberson echoed this sentiment, citing the recent large gatherings as a threat due to COVID-19 spreading and subsequent increased traffic on county roads.
"There are a lot of people that are congregating. And frankly, it is not congregations of 20 to 30 people, but congregations of upwards of 100 people. It is dangerous considering a lot of the issues we are dealing with, both because of COVID-19 but also because of some of the roads that are being used. In the county, there are very small roads, and these people congregating in fields and such are traveling these roads and blocking them," Roberson said. "It is best to keep these areas a little bit more patrolled with the increased traffic."
Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill respects the county's decision to enact a curfew but maintains the city is not enforcing a curfew nor does it currently plan to do so in the future.
"The county's actions actually have very little to do with the city due to the distinction between the county and the city when it comes to things of this nature. The city has not adopted a curfew. We certainly respect the fact that the county did and their reasons for doing so, but we are not inclined to do so at this point in time," Spruill said. "Unless something further happens that causes us to feel differently, the city has no inclination to enforcing or enacting a curfew at this point."
According to Roberson, the curfew does not have a set end date as the board will likely decide on whether or not to extend the ruling on a weekly basis.
"The length of the curfew really depends on how long the sheriff and the board feels like it needs to be implemented," Roberson said. "We have another board meeting on Monday, and I expect the curfew to be extended for at least another two or three weeks. I think we are trying to do it from board meeting to board meeting."
Roberson wants the residents of Oktibbeha County to stay safe and feels a curfew is the best way to do this.
"Frankly it is just a matter of putting these measures in to keep people safe," Roberson said. "Anybody out and about needs to be safe. A little common sense will go a long way to be safe."