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Governor returning from Spain as coronavirus cases rise in Mississippi

Five more people have tested positive for coronavirus in Mississippi, including two in the Hattiesburg area, where the state's initial case lives, and two whose home counties aren't yet being released, the Mississippi State Department of Health said Friday.

Posted: Mar 13, 2020 11:44 AM
Updated: Mar 13, 2020 11:22 PM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Five more people have tested positive for coronavirus in Mississippi, including two in the Hattiesburg area, where the state's initial case lives, and two whose home counties aren't yet being released, the Mississippi State Department of Health said Friday.

PREVIOUS STORY: State issued recommendations for coronavirus after first case reported in Mississippi.

Gov. Tate Reeves, who has been in Spain with his family for a daughter's soccer tournament, is returning Friday, news outlets reported. Asked whether the governor will quarantine himself in light of the thousands of cases in Spain, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, the state health officer, said, “We are meeting with him. We don't want to scoop what the governor has to say.”

The news that Mississippi now has six cases of the respiratory illness called COVID-19 came as school and college closures, which have mounted nationwide, began to spread across Mississippi and numerous public events were postponed or cancelled. It's all part of a push to stem new cases of the illness caused by the virus.

“It's very apparent that things are progressing and evolving very rapidly,” said Dr. Paul Byers, the state epidemiologist. “This is not unexpected ... based on what we've seen in other states and other countries.”

The two new Forrest County cases include a woman over the age of 65 who recently traveled to North Carolina and has been hospitalized. A man who recently traveled to Florida is isolating himself at home to avoid spreading the virus, a news release said. The third newly diagnosed person is a Leflore County woman who is also staying home, Byers said at a news conference with Dobbs on Friday afternoon.

He said he cannot yet release information about the other two newly diagnosed people. “We're still in the process of notifying their physicians about their patients, trying to identify those individuals, make contact with them and identify their contacts,” Byers said.
The six are among 90 people tested so far.

“We are conducting further investigation to determine if and how these cases might be connected to the first presumptive case. At this point, that is not clear, but we are thoroughly exploring all possibilities,” Dobbs said in the earlier news release.

Most people with the disease called COVID-19 have 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 those infected get well. Recovery takes about two weeks for people with mild symptoms but can take three to six weeks for those with more severe illness, according to the World Health Organization.

Dobbs said the department now recommends that nursing homes and other long-term health facilities stop “group social activities” and urges everyone to avoid gatherings of more than 250 people.

On Thursday, health officials said people with health problems should avoid such gatherings and advised long-term care facilities to restrict visitation. Mississippi's Department of Corrections suspended visitation to state inmates.

“Do not go to church,” Dr. Rambod Rouhbaksh of Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg said Thursday. “Do not go to mass gatherings that are not absolutely necessary."

In addition to Forrest County cases, some Mississippi residents in the state’s northwest corner are on home quarantine after possible exposure to a case in nearby Memphis, Tennessee.

Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann told reporters Friday that lawmakers would continue to meet at the state capitol in Jackson, but the state Senate Rules Committee voted to stop inviting student pages or people to be honored on the floor of the Senate. Hosemann told the Clarion Ledger that displays by groups inside the capitol will also be canceled. Hosemann said State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs advised lawmakers on restrictions.

“We have not discussed postponing,” he told the Clarion Ledger.

The state Board of Education announced Friday that it would hold its meeting only online next week, saying it wanted to limit public contact that might be spreading the virus

The board noted that it doesn't have authority to close schools statewide, leaving that decision to local authorities. Schools must make up any days they miss, unless the governor or president declares an emergency, it said.

At least six public school districts — Tupelo, Oxford, Hollandale, Marshall County, Lafayette County and Lowndes County — have announced they will take days off next week. Many schools statewide have been on spring break this week.

Most of the state's 15 community colleges said they would cancel classes next week. Some colleges said they plan to resume on-campus instruction for at least some students on March 23. Their move comes after the state's eight public universities announced they were extending their spring breaks through March 23 and then would begin online classes.

The Mississippi Department of Archives and History closed all its museums, including the twin civil rights and history museums in Jackson.

Many large events statewide were canceled or postponed, including monster truck rallies set for this weekend in Tupelo and Friday night appearances by televangelist Joel Osteen in Jackson and comedian Tracy Morgan in Tunica County.

The Mississippi-Alabama All-Star Basketball Classic will go on Friday, but only immediate family and coaches will be admitted, the Mississippi Association of Coaches said.

The Rapiscan Systems Classic senior golf tournament set for March 23 through 29 in Biloxi was also canceled, while rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd's March 20 concert in Tupelo will be rescheduled.

Gulf Wars, an eight-day Society for Creative Anachronism event scheduled to start Saturday in Lumberton, also was canceled.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 37542

Reported Deaths: 1272
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds304154
DeSoto200920
Madison150839
Jones123149
Harrison118316
Rankin113719
Neshoba104577
Forrest104343
Lauderdale97281
Scott83115
Jackson80419
Washington75313
Copiah67516
Leake63520
Lee63022
Grenada6259
Oktibbeha62328
Warren60021
Holmes59841
Lamar5847
Wayne56819
Yazoo5667
Lowndes54917
Leflore53956
Lincoln53835
Pike51120
Lafayette5094
Sunflower5058
Panola4616
Monroe46036
Simpson4533
Covington4505
Bolivar41618
Tate39513
Attala38624
Newton37710
Adams36720
Pontotoc3636
Marion34912
Claiborne31511
Pearl River30832
Chickasaw30219
Winston30211
Marshall2973
Jasper2826
Noxubee2799
Walthall2748
Clay26211
Smith25612
Union25612
Coahoma2356
Clarke22825
Lawrence2162
Yalobusha2089
Tallahatchie1974
Montgomery1863
Kemper18414
Carroll18311
Humphreys17410
Calhoun1705
Hancock15213
Itawamba1478
Tippah14711
Jefferson1373
Webster13511
Prentiss1274
Tunica1263
George1253
Jefferson Davis1254
Greene11610
Alcorn1112
Amite1113
Tishomingo1091
Quitman1011
Wilkinson1019
Perry914
Stone772
Choctaw764
Franklin572
Sharkey480
Benton470
Issaquena111
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 56441

Reported Deaths: 1136
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson7012170
Mobile5061140
Montgomery4599112
Tuscaloosa274353
Madison25359
Marshall205012
Shelby176425
Lee164737
Morgan13975
Baldwin134111
Walker111332
Elmore107622
Etowah106914
Dallas10189
DeKalb10017
Franklin95016
Unassigned77728
Autauga71515
Russell7130
Chambers68530
Cullman6686
Limestone6653
Butler65529
Houston6417
Tallapoosa63069
Lauderdale6006
St. Clair5983
Calhoun5545
Colbert5286
Escambia5128
Lowndes49222
Pike4805
Jackson4422
Coffee4364
Covington43512
Talladega4177
Dale4061
Barbour4022
Bullock37810
Hale36323
Marengo36111
Chilton3452
Blount3311
Clarke3236
Wilcox3158
Marion30914
Winston3095
Sumter29713
Pickens2786
Randolph2759
Monroe2683
Perry2552
Conecuh2388
Bibb2271
Macon2229
Choctaw22012
Greene2009
Henry1573
Washington1529
Lawrence1460
Crenshaw1343
Cherokee1317
Geneva1010
Fayette901
Clay892
Lamar891
Coosa671
Cleburne481
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