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From Staff Reports
Gov. Tate Reeves on Wednesday issued a statewide shelter-in-place order with the goal of keeping the state’s healthcare system from being overwhelmed by the new new Covid-19 coronavirus.
Reeves said during a Tuesday press conference that the order would go into effect Friday at 5 p.m. and would be strictly enforced through April 20, 2020 at 8 a.m.
At the time of Wednesday’s announcement by the governor, Greene County did not yet have a reported case of the virus. However, neighboring Perry County’s total number of confirmed cases of the new Covid-19 coronavirus had climbed to five, with one confirmed virus-related death. George County had four confirmed cases as of Wednesday.
Statewide, the Mississippi Department of Health statistics show Mississippi had surpassed 1,000 confirmed cases. As of its Wednesday report, health department officials were reporting 1,073 cases of the virus and 22 virus-related deaths.
Reeves has been among the minority of governors who had resisted issuing a statewide stay-at-home order, expressing concerns that it could seriously hurt the economy. Despite his reticence to do so, an increasing number of Mississippi cities took it upon themselves to set tighter restrictions on people’s movements by closing fitness centers, tattoo parlors, nail salons and barber and beauty shops.
In an email to Reeves, Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann and House Speaker Philip Gunn early Wednesday, the physician who leads the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Dr. LouAnn Woodward, said that without such an order, “our health system will be overwhelmed.”
The Associated Press obtained the letter through public records request.
“The immediate time frame (right now) is our last inflection point in controlling COVID-19 spread in our state,” Woodward wrote.
She wrote that projections show Mississippi will see its peak need for hospital beds in late April or early May, and that the need for ventilators and intensive care unit beds “will surpass our resources.”
“All ICU beds are not the same,” Woodward wrote. “Small critical care units in small hospitals will be in over their heads quickly.”
Reeves issued his first stay-home order Tuesday, but for only one of Mississippi’s 82 counties. Reeves said Lauderdale County, which includes the city of Meridian, had seen a recent rapid increase in positive tests for the highly contagious virus.
Reeves said his statewide stay-home order includes a ban on evictions. It mandates the closure of movie theaters, beaches, bowling alleys, gyms and salons. Reeves said walking trails would remain open.
Earlier this week Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes set what he calls a “safer at home” order for his city, saying people have “selfishly” ignored recommendations not to congregate in large groups.
“We can choose to endure four to six weeks of debilitating hardship, or six to eight months of devastating quarantine,” Hewes said Tuesday.
Gov. Reeve’s Wednesday order lays out the guidelines of the statewide shelter-in-place, including:
• people may leave their homes only to perform essential activities, such as caring for someone in the vulnerable population, getting food or necessary supplies, and working for an essential business,
• when outside of their homes, people must follow social distancing guidelines by maintaining a 6-foot distance from others and avoid groups of 10 or more,
• evictions are suspended, though people are still required to pay rent and mortgage payments,
• all nonessential businesses are to stop all activities other than those necessary for minimum operations (e.g. payroll, health insurance, security) and enabling employees to work from home.
• restaurants and bars may only remain open for drive-thru, curbside, and/or delivery service.