The first case of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Madison County was reported by the Mississippi State Department of Health Wednesday, with overall cases in the state rising from 21 to 34.

 

In the face of potential for a rising number of confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus in Mississippi, Gov. Tate Reeves on Saturday had declared a state of emergency over the pandemic sweeping the nation. 

 

Mississippi reported 13 new cases on Wednesday bringing the total to 34. The new cases included two in Bolivar, two in Coahoma, one in DeSoto, one in Hancock, three in Harrison, one in Madison, two in Pearl River, and one in Perry County .

 

President Donald Trump on Monday and Tuesday acknowledged the gravity of the coronavirus pandemic, releasing strict new guidelines to limit people’s interactions in an increasingly urgent bid to slow the virus over the next two weeks before U.S. hospitals are overwhelmed in what officials say would be a worst-case scenario.

 

If you think you have the virus, do not go to the emergency room or a doctor’s office, officials say. Call your physician first or call the CDC at 800-232-4636 for guidance or go to coronavirus.gov until the local number is available.

 

As of Wednesday, over 80,000 people worldwide had recovered, officials said, after 200,000 were infected, over 5,000 in the U.S. and 34 in Mississippi. The U.S. death toll topped 100 by late Tuesday night.

 

The president recommended avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people and also urged Americans to avoid eating and drinking at bars and restaurants. The Federal Reserve on Sunday cut the prime interest rate to near 0% in an effort to spur more home mortgages and auto purchases.

 

The White House gave the country a 15-day window to flatten the steadily rising curve of infection, but some disease modelers see a trajectory that could create a crisis, similar to Italy, that would start to overwhelm the U.S. health care system in about 10 days. Others say the U.S. is ahead of Europe and Asia.

 

The current term of Madison County Circuit Court has been suspended indefinitely. An assistant in Circuit Clerk Anita Wray’s office said Wednesday the trials scheduled for the next two weeks have been continued to a later date.

 

Madison and Ridgeland Municipal Courts are also shutting down, with hearings being rescheduled for later dates.

 

Meanwhile, local entertainment venues and special events have almost all been shuttered or canceled. Malco has closed both of its movie theaters in Ridgeland and Madison, and the county’s public library system announced Monday it would close all five of its locations until further notice. Madison also closed Liberty Park and Strawberry Patch Park.

 

 Reeves held a teleconference Monday with the state’s COVID-19 team to discuss mobile testing, limits on gatherings and support for families affected by the response.

 

An Executive Order signed by Reeves on Monday asks schools to begin working with MDE to develop distance learning protocols as we determine how long schools should stay closed. It also asks them to continue providing free and reduced lunches. “We must look after one another in this trying time,” he said.

 

Reeves urged state employees to work from home if possible and said the state would close driver license offices to avert possible spread there.

 

Reeves on Saturday called on churches not to hold in-person services until further notice. “You can worship from home,” Reeves said.

 

Reeves is working from the Governor’s Mansion for two weeks after returning Friday from a family trip to Spain where one of his daughters was playing soccer.

 

“I urge all Mississippians to use caution," Reeves said in a video released Saturday. "This is not a time to panic. We are acting calmly and steadily.”

 

Several ministers, including the Rev. Chip Stevens, the senior minister of First Baptist Church of Jackson, participated in a prayer telephone conference billed “The Romans 8:28 Prayer Conference Call” on Tuesday led by Hu Mena, an elder in the First Presbyterian Church of Jackson and CEO of Ridgeland-based C Spire.

 

Participants were urged to gather by phone to pray for their business, career and the world amidst the fear and uncertainty of COVID-19.

 

“Let us pray that our God of power and might, of mercy and grace, in His goodness and love, would bring a revival that exalts Jesus Christ!” a minister promoting the call on social media said.

 

Reeves, a Republican, only two months into his first term, said the state of emergency would give health officials and other administrators the tools they need to fight the disease.

 

For most people, the new coronavirus causes 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 people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.

 

Spain has been hard-hit by the virus, with more than 6,000 infections and nearly 200 deaths as of Saturday.

 

Reeves said everyone in his family is “healthy and strong” but said he was trying to set an example.

 

“I'll be voluntarily working from home for 14 days out of an abundance of caution and care for those around us," he said.

 

Reeves also asked schools to close for at least a week. Most Mississippi public schools were on spring break last week. A number had extended that break by two or three days into next week, but had not gone any farther because state law would require them to make up missed days unless an emergency was declared by the governor or or president.

 

Mississippi’s eight public universities announced they were extending their spring breaks through March 23 and then would begin online classes. Most of the state’s 15 community colleges have cancelled classes in including East Central.

 

Public and private schools in Madison County and the metro have suspended on campus classes, with many moving to online learning models. (See story, A1.)

 

Reeves on Monday signed two executive orders regarding the virus. Those will:

 

• Activate the National Guard to support mobile testing units.

• Force agencies to determine which employees are “essential” and send everyone else home.

• Ask schools to develop distance learning protocols and continue providing free and reduced lunches.

• Provide paid leave for any state and local worker who misses work due to the outbreak.

 

Nationwide, including Madison County, there has been a run on toilet paper and non-perishable goods. President Trump said on Sunday consumers were buying three to five times more than what they needed. He said there were no shortages and no issues with the supply chain. 

 

The news guidelines issue by the President — including a strict recommendation that anyone with even minor symptoms stay home — are not mandatory. But they were issued with a sense of alarm and a frankness.

 

The Mississippi Public Service Commission issued an emergency order prohibiting all water, electric, sewer and natural gas shutoffs for 60 days.

 

The state Legislature on Tuesday suspended the 2020 session.