With 11 individuals tested for coronavirus in Neshoba County so far, area schools are awaiting direction from the state about reopening next week after Gov. Tate Reeves on Saturday declared a state of emergency over the pandemic sweeping the nation. 

 

Mississippi reported nine new cases on Tuesday bringing the total infected to 21. The new cases included one in Harrison, four in Hinds, one in Jackson and three in Leflore counties.

 

Neshoba General has tested 11 individuals for the virus and so far three have come back negative. The other results are pending. 

 

More widespread coronavirus screenings will begin Wednesday in Neshoba County for those who believe they have symptoms, Annette Watkins, spokesperson for Neshoba General hospital, said. (See story, page 1A.)

 

President Donald Trump on Monday and Tuesday acknowledged the gravity of the coronavirus pandemic, releasing strict new guidelines to limit people’s interactions in an increasingly urgent bid to slow the virus over the next two weeks before U.S. hospitals are overwhelmed in what officials say would be a worst-case scenario.

 

If you think you have the virus, do not go to the emergency room or a doctor’s office, officials say. Call your physician first or call the CDC at 800-232-4636 for guidance or go to coronavirus.gov until the local number is available.

 

As of Tuesday, 79,000 people worldwide had recovered, officials said, after 182,406 were infected, 4,661 in the U.S. and 21 in Mississippi. The U.S. death toll had risen to 85 by Tuesday.

 

The president recommended avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people and also urged Americans to avoid eating and drinking at bars and restaurants. The Federal Reserve on Sunday cut the prime interest rate to near 0% that could potentially spur more home mortgages and auto purchases.

 

The White House gave the country a 15-day window to flatten the soaring curve of infection, but some disease modelers see a trajectory that could create a crisis, similar to Italy, that would start to overwhelm the U.S. health care system in about 10 days. Others say the U.S. is ahead of Europe and Asia.

 

The current term of Neshoba County Circuit Court has been suspended. Circuit Clerk Patti Duncan-Lee said Monday the trials scheduled for this week have been canceled, but that other court functions such as sentencing or similar hearings could go on as scheduled.

 

Meanwhile, local officials said the HamJam run and barbecue will go on April 17, although the actual festival itself has been rescheduled for May 8-9. The public library announced Monday it would close until further notice.

 

Mississippi had a total of 12 COVID-19 cases on Monday, including a Jackson State University student and a University of Mississippi Medical Center student, according to the Mississippi State Department of Health.

 

Two new cases were reported Monday, one in Pearl River County and the other in Monroe County, officials said. 

 

The breakout total is as follows:

 

• Copiah 2

• Forrest 3

• Hancock 1 

• Hinds 6 

• Leflore 4 

• Monroe 1 

• Pearl River 2 

• Harrison 1

• Jackson 1

 

Reeves held a teleconference Monday with the state’s COVID-19 team to discuss mobile testing, limits on gatherings and support for families affected by the response.

 

An Executive Order signed by Reeves on Monday asks schools to begin working with MDE to develop distance learning protocols as we determine how long schools should stay closed. It also asks them to continue providing free and reduced lunches. “We must look after one another in this trying time,” he said.

 

The Mississippi Gaming Commission on Monday said state casinos must close by midnight due to the virus. Choctaw Gaming officials had not made an announcement by Monday. 

 

Reeves urged state employees to work from home if possible and said the state would close driver license offices to avert possible spread there.

 

Reeves on Saturday called on churches not to hold in-person services until further notice, although many Neshoba County congregations gathered. “You can worship from home,” Reeves said. Some by Monday had announced they would not be meeting until further notice.

 

Reeves is working from the Governor’s Mansion for two weeks after returning Friday from a family trip to Spain where one of his daughters was playing soccer.

 

“I urge all Mississippians to use caution," Tate Reeves said in a video released Saturday. "This is not a time to panic. We are acting calmly and steadily.”

 

The Republican governor, only two months into his first term, said the state of emergency would give health officials and other administrators the tools they need to fight the disease.

 

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

 

The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.

 

Spain has been hard-hit by the virus, with more than 6,000 infections and nearly 200 deaths as of Saturday.

 

Reeves said everyone in his family is “healthy and strong” but said he was trying to set an example.

 

“I'll be voluntarily working from home for 14 days out of an abundance of caution and care for those around us," he said.

 

Reeves also asked schools to close for at least a week. Most Mississippi public schools were on spring break last week. A number had extended that break by two or three days into next week, but had not gone any farther because state law would require them to make up missed days unless an emergency was declared by the governor or or president.

 

Mississippi’s eight public universities announced they were extending their spring breaks through March 23 and then would begin online classes. Most of the state’s 15 community colleges have cancelled classes in including East Central.

 

Reeves on Monday signed two executive orders regarding the virus. Those will:

 

• Activate the National Guard to support mobile testing units.

• Force agencies to determine which employees are “essential” and send everyone else home.

• Ask schools to develop distance learning protocols and continue providing free and reduced lunches.

• Provide paid leave for any state and local worker who misses work due to the outbreak.

 

Nationwide, including Neshoba County, there has been a run on toilet paper and non-perishable goods. President Trump said on Sunday consumers were buying three to five times more than what they needed. He said there were no shortages and no issues with the supply chain. 

 

The news guidelines issue by the President — including a strict recommendation that anyone with even minor symptoms stay home — are not mandatory. But they were issued with a sense of alarm and a frankness.

 

The Mississippi Public Service Commission issued an emergency order prohibiting all water, electric, sewer and natural gas shutoffs

for 60 days.

 

The state Legislature on Tuesday suspended the 2020 session.