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COVID update: Official leading state’s virus response tests positive

One of the state’s top officials leading the coronavirus response has tested positive for COVID-19.

Mississippi Emergency Management Agency Executive Director Gregory Michel tested positive after taking a rapid test, Gov. Tate Reeves said Wednesday.

Michel usually attends regular televised briefings with Reeves and Mississippi’s State Heath Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs to speak on the delivery and organization of personal protective equipment across the state and work being done on disaster recovery from hurricanes.

However, Michel was missing from the governor’s briefing Wednesday.

“One of the things that I’m sure has been very obvious to all of you today is whereas usually there are three of us up here, there’s only two of us,” Reeves said during the briefing. “Earlier today, we did some routine testing as we often do throughout our leadership, and director Michel could not be here because he did positive on a rapid test for COVID-19 earlier this morning.”

MEMA is responsible for heading disaster relief efforts in the state. Michel, a retired colonel in the Army National Guard, has served as executive director since 2018 when he was appointed by then-Gov. Phil Bryant. He was re-appointed by Reeves in December 2019 after Reeves was elected governor.

Kelly Richardson, MEMA public information officer, said Thursday that Michel is “self-isolating and is doing well.”

The agency is fully operational and all employees who have been in direct contact with him were tested yesterday, Richardson said. Those results were all negative.

Reeves said Wednesday that he wishes Michel a speedy recovery.

“I want you to know that even in these challenging times with basically 11 federally declared disasters that we’re working on at MEMA, that we have built a good strong team there,” Reeves said.

 

By the numbers

Forty-two new coronavirus-related deaths were reported Thursday by the Mississippi State Department of Health.

There were 2,283 new COVID-19 positive test results reported to MSDH as of 6 p.m. Wednesday. The state has recorded 172,955 cases and 4,083 deaths related to the virus.

Lincoln County has reported 2,145 total cases and 71 deaths to date. Of the county’s total infections, 624 were identified as Black/African American, 1,194 as white, two as Native American, four as Asian, and the rest as other/unknown ethnicity and race.

As of Tuesday, 1,125 patients with confirmed infections were hospitalized statewide — 288 were in intensive care units and 159 were on ventilators. An additional 116 patients were hospitalized with suspected infections.

 

The Associated Press contributed to this story.