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COVID-19 pandemic still a concern for Mississippi elected leaders

Published: Jul. 26, 2021 at 5:52 PM CDT
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BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - The Mississippi Coast Coliseum is filled with Mississippi mayors, councilmen, aldermen and other elected leaders from across the state.

Hundreds of people from 72 cities filled the lobby and exhibition halls for the Mississippi Municipal League Conference, an annual meeting that was canceled last year due to COVID-19.

Now, the crowd looks to gain insight from experts holding talks and seminars.

“It’s great to have all of them back on the Mississippi Gulf Coast to be able to share what your municipality has to offer with other municipalities, to see what you can do better for your constituents that you represent,” said Gautier Mayor Casey Vaughan.

The three-day conference offers different topics for visitors, including city finance, natural disaster relief and small business cultivation, which is something that is important to Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker.

“They provide a lot of community support, a lot of the personality, a lot of the drive. I know we have that in Hattiesburg,” he said.

In between the scheduled events, city leaders have a chance to mingle with one another.

“The information sharing and collaboration are big parts of this,” Barker said. “The bigger part of this is the networking with other mayors and aldermen, just to see how other cities approach issues.”

While Mississippi’s elected officials use the convention to share their ideas and their wisdom with one another, they also share their experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re relieved to be back in person, but at the same time, we are kind of keeping an eye on what’s happening with this Delta variant,” Barker said.

With the state’s COVID-19 case count resembling the numbers seen in January, some officials want others to keep up sanitation habits.

“Everybody be aware of your surroundings,” Vaughan said. “I think people might have let their guard down some. You just get relaxed sometimes and forget about that.”

Other leaders want to serve as an example for the communities in order to prevent more hospitalizations and deaths.

“Effectively communicate the need for people to get vaccinated. We will be dealing with this five years from now because there’s going to be more variants,” Barker said. “The way that you stop this in its tracks is you get your shot. That’s what you need to do. Trust your doctor. Trust the science. Get your shot.”

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