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Mississippi orders casinos to close amid virus concerns

By EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS   Associated Press

JACKSON (AP) — All of Mississippi’s state-regulated casinos were ordered to close by midnight Monday to limit the spread of the new coronavirus.

Mississippi reported 12 confirmed cases of the virus as of Monday. Schools and universities and some museums remained closed.

The Mississippi Gaming Commission said in its order closing the casinos that keeping them open “poses an immediate threat to the public peace, health, safety, and general welfare of patrons and employees.” State law limits casinos to areas along the Mississippi River and the Gulf Coast. More than 16,400 employees work in the 26 casinos, which are strong tourist attractions.

Gov. Tate Reeves said Monday that he is issuing two executive orders. One makes the National Guard available at testing centers for the virus, with a goal of creating additional testing centers.

The other executive order allows schools and state and local governments to give time off to “nonessential personnel.” He said he encourages other employers to do the same. He said that executive order also encourages schools to set up distance learning options.

“We recognize that there are challenges, particularly in our more rural areas across the state,” said Reeves. He made his announcement during a live Facebook video after a technology platform that’s used for group meetings and conference calls did not work.

He said the second executive order also instructs schools to continue providing free or reduced lunches to thousands of children, although it was not clear how that would be done.

Mississippi’s state health officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, said the 12 positive cases of the coronavirus had been found among 289 people tested in Mississippi by Monday. He said labs are accepting samples and testing them each day, and results are generally available in 24 hours or less.

“Right now, Mississippi is experiencing low-level community transmission,” Dobbs said. “Of course, this could change very quickly.”

The Mississippi State Department of Health website said that Forrest County had three virus cases by Monday. Copiah, Hinds and Pearl River counties had two each. Hancock, Leflore and Monroe had one each.

For most people, 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. People with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover, according to the World Health Organization.

Among the attractions closed in the state are the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, which are two entities under a single roof in downtown Jackson. Grammy Museum Mississippi is closed until at least the end of the month.

Work crews were giving the Mississippi Capitol a thorough cleaning Monday, including wiping down banisters where people often rest their hands. The Legislature has remained in session.

The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
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