Mississippi’s ‘safer at home’ set to expire this week

Published 10:14 pm Monday, May 18, 2020

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves’ “safer at home” order to slow the spread of the new coronavirus is entering its final week.

Some restaurants and other businesses have been easing into reopening with sanitation and social distancing restrictions in place. Tattoo parlors were allowed to reopen during the weekend, and casinos are preparing to start reopening Thursday.

Many high schools have been holding commencement ceremonies with videos of individual students receiving their diplomas, often edited together to show the entire graduating class. Other high schools are planning ceremonies in a few weeks.

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The “safer at home” order, which expires May 25, is meant to limit people’s physical interactions. Republican Reeves said last week that he believes the order is accomplishing its goal of limiting the spread of the virus enough to prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed. He is still suggesting that people who are medically vulnerable should remain home.

Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson said in a statement Monday that his office is starting to make plans for handling the November general election with coronavirus safety precautions.

Watson, a Republican, said he will ask the Legislature to authorize in-person absentee voting during a state of emergency. Mississippi’s current law says absentee voting is limited to people who will be out of town on Election Day or to people who are 65 or older.

“I want Mississippians to understand this is not a ploy to implement early voting, but a temporary way to permit those who are most at risk of contracting COVID-19 a safe opportunity to exercise their right to vote,” Watson said.

Watson said training for poll workers could be conducted online and will include information about social distancing and sanitizing polling stations. He said his office might allow some voting to be conducted in outdoor settings.

The state Health Department said Monday that Mississippi — with a population of about 3 million — had at least 11,432 confirmed cases and 528 deaths from the coronavirus as of Sunday evening.

That was an increase of 136 cases and seven deaths from the numbers reported a day earlier; two of the seven deaths occurred before Sunday but were in the new report because of a delay in the Health Department receiving information from death certificates.

The department said Monday that at least 7,681 people in the state are presumed to have recovered from the virus, either because it’s been at least 14 days since a person was confirmed with the virus and not hospitalized or because it’s been at least 21 days since a person was confirmed with the virus and was hospitalized or the person’s hospital status was not known.

The number of coronavirus infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause severe symptoms and be fatal.

The Health Department said Monday that at least 115,767 coronavirus tests had been conducted in Mississippi as of Wednesday.

The department said at least 1,489 cases of the virus had been confirmed in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes, with at least 254 virus-related deaths in those facilities.