By Kevin Edwards
BC Staff Writer
The Mississippi Department of Health announced earlier today the state has its first confirmed case of COVID-19, commonly known as the coronavirus.
The individual is a resident of Forest County who had recently traveled to Florida. He has not been hospitalized and is currently in voluntary isolation to prevent transmission to others.
Caitlyn Thompson, director of marketing for Bolivar Medical Center, said the facility is preparing but that there is no reason for panic at this time.
Bolivar Medical Center has established a coronavirus preparedness information hub on its website to address questions and concerns.
“We are continuing to work closely with the Mississippi Department of Health and following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ensure our hospital is prepared with the appropriate plans to detect, protect and respond should anyone in our community contract or be exposed to the novel coronavirus.
“Additionally, we are reviewing our facility’s robust emergency operations plan and proactively completing a number of preparation checklists out of an abundance of caution.”
Michael Lamb, director of Bolivar County’s Emergency Management Agency, met today with Mississippi Emergency Management Agency officials in Jackson who have advised precautionary steps people can take to ensure their health.
“If you don’t have to go to social events such as ball games, and of course a lot of people go to churches and things like that, they suggest that if you can view it online, view it online,” Lamb said. “The virus is, of course, like the flu. It’s spread by germs, touching, shaking hands, through the mouth, saliva. They’re just asking or suggesting that people basically stay away from social events.
“As of now, there’s nothing set forth from MEMA. They’ve just suggested ideas to the public. Everybody wants to buy sanitary liquids and stuff and soap works just as well. Biggest thing is trying to stay clean. Wash your hands. Avoid shaking people’s hands, getting up close to people and talking.”
The Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning announced in order to prevent spread of the virus; all eight of the state’s public universities including Delta State University will have spring schedules altered.
Spring break will be extended to March 20 and classes will resume on March 23 with online offerings and other alternative teaching methods.
Students are encouraged to stay home and work remotely.
Commissioner of Higher Education Dr. Alfred Rankins Jr. said in a statement, “The health and safety of our students, faculty and staff are paramount. Our universities are modifying the schedules for the spring semester out of an abundance of caution.”
Interested parties should monitor their university’s communication lines for up-to-date information.
The Mississippi Department of Corrections announced a temporary suspension of visitation at all facilities as a precautionary measure.
The disease originated in Wuhan, China, in late 2019 and eventually made its way to the United States with its first confirmed case in Washington state on Jan. 21.
The World Health Organization declared the virus as a pandemic on March 11.
Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath.
The symptoms may appear anywhere from two to 14 days after exposure.
Populations most at risk of severe cases are older adults and those with serious chronic medical conditions or immunodeficiencies.
China has reported over 80,000 cases. Italy has gone into complete quarantine with over 12,000 reported cases. Iran and South Korea both have 8,000 to 9,000 cases each.
The U.S. has nearly 1,000 cases and is expected to climb.
Preventative measures have been taken to reduce mass gatherings of people in the hopes of preventing the spread of the virus.
President Trump announced a 30-day ban on travel from most of Europe and a suspension on foreign nationals entering the country if they have been in certain European countries over a previous 14-day period.
Numerous sports leagues such as the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball and National Hockey League are suspending their seasons for the foreseeable future.
The NCAA has announced the cancellation of its men and women’s annual basketball championship tournaments.
Infection is not a certainty and there are ways to maximize your chances of staying healthy, the most important of which is practicing good hygiene.
Wash your hands often with soap and water. Soap is the best tool at your disposal as it can dissolve the membrane that keeps the coronavirus together. If soap is unavailable the CDC recommends a hand sanitizer with an alcohol content of at least 60 percent.
Cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing with your elbow or a tissue, not with your hands. Avoid touching unwashed hands to your face.
To protect patients and staff at hospitals, people who are experiencing symptoms are not permitted to visit Bolivar Medical Center unless they are seeking care.
If you are sick, the CDC recommends you stay home and isolate. Call your doctor and let them know you may have the illness. Avoid public areas and transportation and stay away from others as best you can to avoid spreading infection.
Facemasks are not a foolproof way to prevent more contamination, but they are recommended if you have no choice but to be around people such as in a hospital waiting room.
Employers are actively encouraged to allow sick employees to stay home.
Employers are encouraged to keep frequently touched surfaces clean with disinfectant or sanitary wipes.