Mississippi Choctaw has COVID-19, urges health precautions

Published 12:09 pm Monday, April 20, 2020

(AP) — The chief of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians says he has tested positive for COVID-19, and he is urging people to follow advice of health professionals to try to slow the spread of the highly contagious new coronavirus.
Chief Cyrus Ben said in a video posted to the tribe’s Facebook page on Saturday that he had not experienced any symptoms. He said he is quarantined with his family and is continuing to work remotely.
“It only takes one person who has been exposed to the virus to go out in public and expose everyone that they could come in contact with,” Ben said. “That includes their families, their friends. And that is why we say take precaution, be vigilant.”
The Choctaws have 11,000 members in 10 of Mississippi’s 82 counties. The tribe’s Pearl River Resort in central Mississippi’s Neshoba County has two casinos and hotels. The resort is closed indefinitely because of the coronavirus pandemic, and the tribe announced Friday that it was putting most of the resort employees on unpaid furlough.
Mississippi’s state-regulated casinos, run by private businesses and not by the tribe, have also been closed for weeks because of the pandemic.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves has set a statewide stay-at-home order that began the evening of April 3 and extends until the morning of April 27. Public school buildings are closed the rest of the semester, although Reeves has urged schools to continue distance-learning activities.
The state Health Department said Monday that Mississippi had at least 4,512 confirmed cases and 169 deaths from the coronavirus as of Sunday evening. That was an increase of 238 cases and 10 deaths from the previous day. The state’s population is about 3 million.
The department said Monday that coronavirus cases had been confirmed in at least 77 long-term care facilities such as nursing homes.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the highly contagious virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal.
The Health Department said 51,434 coronavirus tests had been done in the state as of Sunday.

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