JACKSON, Miss. (WLOX) - Gov. Tate Reeves declared a state of emergency on Saturday to further ramp up Mississippi’s coordinated response across all levels of government and provide health officials and administrators with the necessary tools and guidance to combat the spread of COVID-19.
“Taking proactive measures to limit community spread, I have declared a state of emergency to deploy the necessary resources to protect public health and take care of all Mississippians," Reeves said. “We are not taking any chances. This is our latest step to respond to COVID-19, and it will not be our last. We will continue coordinating our response efforts and prioritizing the health and well-being for all who call Mississippi home.”
Throughout the rapidly changing events surrounding COVID-19, the governor has been closely monitoring the situation and working closely with Dr. Thomas Dobbs and Director Greg Michel with the Mississippi State Department of Health.
The declaration enables the Mississippi State Department of Health and the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency to ramp up coordination among all state and local agencies and enable them to fast-track coordination at all levels of government in Mississippi.
“I urge all Mississippians to use caution. This is not a time to panic—we are acting calmly and steadily. In this state, we were prepared. We have a pandemic plan that is being followed to the letter. We have tremendous experts who are operating in a way that will protect the public health and save lives. We are listening to those experts, and following their lead every step of the way.”
As of March 13, the State Department of Health has had six presumptive positive cases of COVID-19. Three of those individuals are from Forrest County, and officials released Friday that another case was in Leflore County, a fifth in Pearl River County and the last in Copiah County.
A presumptive positive test means the patient tested positive when administered the COVID-19 test. However, those results will now have to be confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As of Friday at 4:30 p.m., Mississippi has tested 90 samples, with six coming back as positive.
Gov. Tate Reeves, who has been in Spain with his family for a daughter’s soccer tournament, returned Friday, news outlets reported. Asked whether the governor will quarantine himself in light of the thousands of cases in Spain, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, the state health officer, said, “We are meeting with him. We don’t want to scoop what the governor has to say.”
The Department of Public Safety also announced Saturday that all driver license stations are closed to the public until March 31 except for the nine Mississippi Highway Patrol District Troop Stations. Those stations will only provide sex offender registry transactions, commercial driver license card renewals medical card updates. Online transactions are available for driver’s license renewal, identification card renewal, and address changes.
Multiple school districts across the state have decided to close in light of the spread of the virus. With the emergency declaration, missed days will not be required to be made up.
Public universities in the state have elected to extend spring breaks to inhibit the spread of the virus.
The Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi has announced a suspension of in-person services of worship in all churches in the state, beginning March 15 until March 22.
Multiple events across South Mississippi have been canceled or postponed to allow residents to avoid large crowds, per CDC recommendations.