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State begins coronavirus response

As of Friday morning, the Centers for Disease Control has reported a total of 164 confirmed and presumed cases of coronavirus disease 2019 and 11 deaths across 19 states. While states are bracing themselves for the impact of the disease, there are currently no known cases in Mississippi.

Gov. Tate Reeves appointed Mississippi State Department of Health head Dr. Thomas Dobbs to lead a preparedness and response planning committee. Dobbs said that several patients have been tested in Mississippi for the disease, with all cases being returned negative.

The Mississippi State Department of Health sent out a press release Wednesday to inform the public about a new COVID-19 hotline to answer questions for the general public. The hotline can be reached at 1-877-987-6453. Up-to-date information about the disease in Mississippi can also be fond at HealthyMS.com/COVID-19. A free MS Ready app is also available in the software stores for Apple and Android devices.

The U.S. Senate voted 96-1 Thursday to pass the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020, which would appropriate billions to go toward preventing the spread of the disease and improving testing availability. The bill passed in the house with 415 yeas, 2 nays and 13 abstaining. The bill is currently awaiting approval from President Donald Tump.

“The overwhelming vote for this package indicates strong support for a government-wide response to the coronavirus situation, meaning we must have federal, state, and local coordination and cooperation,” said U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith,  of Brookhaven.

The Mississippi Department of Education has also released guidance to school districts concerning the disease at www.mdek12.org/COVID19 in addition to guidance published by the CDC. Schools are instructed to consult with the MSDH to determine when it is appropriate to close a school.

MDE urged schools to educate students sand staff about proper hand hygiene. Everyone should was their hands several times each day with soap and warm water, especially after coughing and sneezing. Hand sanitizers can be used if soap and water is not available.

Everyone is advised to cover their nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing with a disposable tissue. The tissue should then be disposed of, and hands should be washed. If a tissue is unavailable, everyone should cough or sneeze into a shirt sleeve or elbow. According to the CDC, COVID-19 is thought to be spread from coughing and sneezing and being within 6 feet of an infected person for prolonged periods of time.

Staff is urged to regularly clean areas that are frequently touched with off-the-shelf cleaning products. If the area has been contaminated with bodily fluids, the CDC urges staff to wear gloves and other protective equipment and clean the area immediately.

If a student or staff member discovers that they have flu-like symptoms, they should be separated from others until they can be sent home. Those with flu-like symptoms should stay home from work or school and seek medical attention if symptoms become severe. This includes uncontrolled temperature, difficulty breathing, worsening headache, unusual muscle weakness or seizure activity. Remain home until fever has been gone for at least 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medications.

The MDE also warned about the possibility of social stigmas arising out of fear regarding the disease.

“Stigma and discrimination can occur when people associate an infectious disease, such as COVID-19, with a population or nationality, even though not everyone in that population or from that region is specifically at risk for the disease,” MDE said.

“Stigma hurts everyone by creating more fear or anger towards ordinary people instead of the disease that is causing the problem. We can fight stigma and help not hurt others by providing social support. We can communicate the facts that being Chinese or Asian American does not increase the chance of getting or spreading COVID-19.”