By Kevin Edwards
BC Staff Writer
The novel coronavirus has quickly spread in Mississippi and public reaction is growing.
This weekend Bolivar County got its third diagnosis of the virus and a fourth was announced Monday.
Fewer than 10 days ago, the Mississippi State Department of Health announced the state’s first coronavirus infection. Since then, the infection rate has increased exponentially and as of Monday, Mississippi had 249 reported cases, including one death.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended the best way to combat the rapid spread of the virus is to limit contact among people as much as possible.
With that in mind, Mississippi has taken efforts to reduce gatherings as much as possible.
On Thursday, Gov. Tate Reeves signed an executive order closing all Mississippi public schools until April 20.
Cleveland School District is offering grab-and-go breakfast and lunches from 7:30-8:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. to noon at Bell Academy, Cleveland Central Middle School and Hayes Cooper Center. These meals are free but are to be picked up and not consumed on site.
West Bolivar Consolidated School District and North Bolivar Consolidated School District will transport meals on its bus routes throughout their respective districts.
All three districts will provide instructional packets for students and it is recommended parents follow their district’s social media pages for specifics on pickups and how to access any online learning utilities offered.
The Mississippi State Board of Education voted to suspend all federal and state assessments for the 2019-20 school year and submit a waiver request to the U.S. Department of Education.
There will be no mandate to makeup any school days that are lost.
Other events throughout the county have become more restricted as the infection rate has spread.
Bolivar County Emergency Management Director Michael Lamb announced Saturday all should follow the recommendation of avoiding gatherings of 10 people or more.
“This virus is serious and we need to be taking all precautions that are being recommended,” Lamb said in a release. “I know this is a nuisance to our business owners, but we need to look out for the safety and well-being of everyone.”
Bolivar County Coroner Rudy Seals Jr. announced several restrictions on funerals until further notice.
Graveside visitations will be for family only. There will be no public visitations and private visitations must be held to 25 people or less, with the final funeral arrangement being limited to five people.
The Cleveland-Bolivar County Chamber of Commerce closed its facility to maintain social distancing. Staff is available by email and by calling 662-588-3115 for immediate assistance.
In a release penned to the Cleveland community, Mayor Billy Nowell “strongly recommended” that all restaurants offer take out or delivery options only as well as all bars closing until further direction.
“We are all having to do things differently to help prevent the spread of this virus in our community,” Nowell said. “I want to thank everyone for the changes that you have made thus far. I want to give a special thanks to those who are providing food and meals for our school children. I also want to commend our healthcare professionals and first responders for continuing to serve our community selflessly.”
Bolivar Medical Center is currently observing a zero-patient protocol with limited exceptions to preserve the safety of patients in care.
Both courthouses in Cleveland and Rosedale will have limited access until further notice.
Citizens who have business are encouraged to call their office of interest ahead of time to help limit traffic in and out of the buildings.
The primary runoff to determine the Republican nominee for the U.S. House District 2 race has been postponed until June 23.
The IRS has postponed the yearly tax filing deadline to July 15.
It is estimated that the United States currently has at least 34,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus as of Monday.
New York has been hit hardest with over 16,000 cases, followed by Washington with over 2,000 cases and New Jersey with over 1,900 cases.
As testing becomes more available, the number of cases in Mississippi and the U.S. are expected to grow larger.
Coronavirus has proven to be much more contagious than the seasonal flu with estimates ranging from two to three times as much.
In addition, there is a breadth of medical knowledge and expectations available for the flu while scientists are still in the process of learning about coronavirus while it is impacting the world.
As of last Friday, the Mississippi State Department of Health reports nearly even infection rates among ages 18-29, 40-49, 60-69 and 70-plus. Two-thirds of infections have been women.
Twenty-four percent of infections have resulted in hospitalization.
The best way to keep healthy is to practice good hygiene and avoid public places as much as possible.
Coronavirus symptoms can take several days to develop, or they may not develop at all. The virus will be contagious, nonetheless.
Wash your hands regularly with soap and water or use hand sanitizer if it is available.
If you are sick, you are still able to visit Bolivar Medical Center, but if you feel you have symptoms similar to the coronavirus, it is recommended you call the facility or your physician beforehand so they can take necessary precautions to prevent unintentional spread.
To keep up to date with the latest coronavirus updates, visit the CDC’s website at www.cdc.gov, the Mississippi State Department of Health’s website at www.msdh.ms.gov, and the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency’s website at www.msema.org