Since Mississippi’s first positive case of coronavirus on March 11, life has been uprooted for many Mississippians. Many are working from home. Schools are closed. Churches are closed. Restaurants dining halls are closed.
Here is what you need to know about COVID-19 in Mississippi, what you can do to stop it from spreading, and what steps state and local governments have or have not taken in response.
Gov. Tate Reeves announced on April 24 that the state will be taking a measured approach to reopen Mississippi as the current shelter-in-place order is replaced with a new, safer-at-home order. The new order will be in effect Monday, April 27, at 8 a.m.
Many currently closed businesses will be allowed to open under certain circumstances. Retail stores can reopen, but they must reduce capacity by 50 percent based on their designated full capacity. Masks are highly recommended, but not mandated.
A large grouping of currently closed businesses – including movie theaters, bars, museums, casinos, salons and barber shops, gyms, and clubs – will remain closed. Restaurants remain limited to curbside, take out, or delivery as dining rooms are still closed.
Gatherings of 10 or more remain prohibited, and Reeves said this will be enforced. There is also a classification of the most vulnerable, including the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions, who are required to continue sheltering in place.
The order is in effect for two weeks, though Reeves said they may review the order prior to see if more of the state can open up.
Mississippi’s first positive case of coronavirus was confirmed on March 11. As of April 29, that number had escalated to 6,569. There has been 250 deaths reported.
Hinds county, the largest county in the state, has the most cases in the state at 450. Lauderdale county has 334 cases and Desoto county has 277. By April 9, at least one positive test has occurred in virtually every county in the state. As of April 28, 66,094 residents had been tested.
COVID-19 causes flu-like illness ranging from mild to severe, with symptoms of fever, coughing, fatigue, and difficulty breathing. Like the flu, COVID-19 is thought to spread person-to-person by close contact (within 6 feet) and by coughing or sneezing. Other possible routes of transmission may include touching surfaces contaminated by the virus. The Department of Health has a list of directions for all individuals to remain healthy during this time.
Lawsuit filed against Jackson: The Mississippi Justice Institute has filed a lawsuit against the city of Jackson over a new order banning open carry in the city.
Legislature to return May 18: Legislative leadership has announced plans to return to Jackson on May 18, some two months after the session as suspended. On March 16, the legislature suspended the legislative session. HCR 65 extends the session to June 9 and adjust the deadlines for legislation. Previously, the session was supposed to end, known as sine die (which means with no appointed date for resumption), on May 3. Under the resolution, the legislature could reconvene on or before April 1. If the legislature hasn’t returned, completed its business, and adjourned sine die by June 9, the final day of the session could be pushed back to July 9, which would be after the start of the fiscal year.
Schools closed for remainder of year: Gov. Tate Reeves announced on April 14 that school buildings will be closed for the remainder of the year, but students would continue distance learning.
Board of Medical Licensure walks back regulation change: The board initially signed an order allowing patients to access out-of-state doctors via telemedicine, something most states have done. They then revised that to only allow the practice of using out-of-state doctors if a you have a prior doctor-patient relationship.
Tax filing deadline extended one month: The state has extended the tax filing deadline from April 15 to May 15. The Department of Revenue said they are unable to move the deadline to July 15, like the federal government, because the state fiscal year begins on July 1.
Reeves issues executive order for unemployment benefits: Reeves issued an executive order on March 21 that will allow Mississippians to claim unemployment benefits without the one-week waiting period. Work search requirements have also been suspended.
Alcohol restrictions lifted: The Department of Revenue has updated two regulations making it easier for consumers to purchases alcohol. DOR is now allowing liquor stores to take orders online or over the phone, while providing curbside delivery rather than having to enter the retail establishment. DOR will also allow customers to purchase a sealed bottle of wine with their to-go order. To-go sales of mixed drinks remain prohibited.
Telemedicine regs lifted: The Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure has temporarily lifted multiple regulations concerning access to telemedicine. The Board is encouraging “all physicians to utilize telemedicine so as to avoid unnecessary patient travel both in-state and out of state.” With that, the Board has said they will not enforce “any statute, rule, or regulation” that requires physicians to personally examine a patient prior to the issuance of a prescription. This includes controlled substances, and every physician will have access to the Prescription Monitoring Program when a controlled substance is issued and urine drug tests will not be required. Additionally, out-of-state physicians may also utilize telemedicine in treating patients in Mississippi without securing a license to practice medicine in the state.
Casinos in Mississippi closed: On March 16, the Mississippi Gaming Commission announced that all private casinos in the state will be indefinitely closed. This does not impact Indian-owned casinos.
Primary election: The Republican primary runoff for the 2nd Congressional District has been rescheduled from March 31 to June 23.