JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi's top public health official has ordered a temporary halt to all elective surgeries to try to save hospital bed space as the state sees a rapid expansion in cases of the new coronavirus.
The order by the state health officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, covers all medical facilities in the state. It takes effect Sunday and lasts until at least July 20.
His order, issued Friday, says elective procedures can be done only under “extraordinary circumstance” and “must be accompanied by an extensive and compelling justification.”
Gov. Tate Reeves announced Thursday that he would set restrictions that take effect Monday in 13 counties with high levels of virus transmission. They are Claiborne, DeSoto, Grenada, Harrison, Hinds, Jackson, Jefferson, Madison, Quitman, Rankin, Sunflower, Washington and Wayne.
People in those counties must wear masks in public, including in outdoor settings where it's not possible for people to remain at least 6 feet (1.8 meters) apart. Gatherings indoors are limited to 10 people and those outdoors are limited to 20.
Mississippi has a population of about 3 million. The Health Department said Saturday that the state has had nearly 35,420 confirmed cases and at least 1,230 deaths from the coronavirus as of Friday evening. That was an increase of 797 cases and 15 deaths from numbers reported the day before.
The department said at least 2,959 cases of the virus have been confirmed in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes, with at least 5,953 virus-related deaths in those facilities.
The number of virus infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick. While most people who contract the coronavirus recover after suffering only mild to moderate symptoms, it can be deadly for older patients and those with other health problems.