By Kevin Edwards
BC Staff Writer
The Mississippi Department of Health announced last week the state had 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 but was in voluntary isolation to prevent transmission to others.
As of Monday, the number in Mississippi had grown to 12 with cases in the counties of Copiah, Hancock, Hinds, Leflore, Monroe and Pearl River.
On Saturday, Gov. Tate Reeves announced a state of emergency and recommended all public schools in the state close for at least one week.
In accordance, Cleveland School District, North Bolivar Consolidated School District, West Bolivar Consolidated School District, North Sunflower Academy, Bayou Academy, and Sunflower County Consolidated School District followed the recommendation.
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.
On Monday, the hospital officials announced it will allow one visitor per patient at a time to the location; all visitors will be screened before visiting via temperature and questions; and no one will be tested for the virus without symptoms.
“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.”
North Sunflower Medical Center is also taking precautions and too has established an information page on coronavirus.
If someone things they have been exposed or shows symptoms, they are to call before arriving at the clinic or hospital.
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 and may not appear up to 14 days after exposure.
Populations most at risk of severe cases are older adults and those with serious chronic medical conditions or immunodeficiencies.
As of Monday, there are estimated to be nearly 90,000 cases worldwide with China, Italy and Iran hit hardest.
In the US, there are estimated to be between 3,000 to 4,000 cases.
Preventative measures have been taken to reduce mass gatherings of people in the hopes of preventing the spread of the virus.
President Trump announced declared a national emergency to free up federal resources to contribute to the fight of the disease.
The CDC and other federal agencies are encouraging social distancing, the concept of preventing the spread of the disease by avoiding gatherings of people.
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.
Successful efforts toward containing the disease will contribute toward “flattening the curve,” which means to prevent a spike in cases in a short period of time that would overwhelm the healthcare system.