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Reeves executive order to provide tighter guidelines for gatherings, employers, and bars and restaurants

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Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves on Tuesday, March 24. (Photo via screen capture)

Gov. Tate Reeves has promised to continue to take action to protect Mississippians from the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.

In a press conference held on the steps of the Governor’s Mansion Tuesday, Reeves made his first public appearance since returning from a vacation in Spain and self-quarantining for about 10 days.

“We have taken decisive action,” he said. “In fact, we have taken very aggressive and decisive action to help protect Mississippians from this virus.”

After providing a lengthy timeline of his response to COVID-19 to date, Reeves announced several updates to the state’s response. Among them is the delivery of nearly 450,000 surgical and more protective n95 masks to hospitals. He encouraged hospitals to utilize their existing contracts and supply chains to secure masks and personal protective equipment, or PPEs.

“Every county (Emergency Management Agency) in Mississippi now has personal protective equipment from the state for first responders,” he said.

He then reiterated the guidelines for keeping safe during the crises.

“You must stay home as much as you can. Do not go out if you can possibly avoid it,” Reeves said. “Do not hoard supplies. We have assured you, as we have been reassured by the president and others, that the supply chain is working. The supply chain is delivering groceries every single day. Our amazing Mississippi truckers and our amazing truck drivers are working to ensure those stocks, those shelves get restocked. That is something that must continue.

“I have to tell you: Please, do not hoard. This is not a time for panic, this is a time for caution. Listen to the experts because I can tell you that is exactly what I am doing.”

“Do not gather in groups of 10 or more,” Reeves added. “Use good hygiene.

“Reserve our tests for the most vulnerable amongst us. … If you do not have symptoms, you do not need to be tested. If you don’t have fever in excess of 100.4, you probably do not need to be tested.”

Reeves also asked employers to allow people who can work from home to do so, and asked them to allow non-essential employees to go home.

On Tuesday, Reeves will sign an executive order to instruct Mississippians to avoid non-essential gatherings of 10 or more, that tells all restaurants and bars to suspend dine-in services, and instead use drive-thru, pick-up or delivery to get people food.

It will direct Mississippians not to visit hospitals, nursing homes or long-term care facilities.

It will direct businesses to direct every possible employee to work from home and it will ultimately define essential businesses that may be exempt from those rules.

“I have committed to transparency in this process,” Reeves said, “and I will continue to offer transparency.

“Understand that we are not at the end of this pandemic. In fact, we may still be at the beginning stages of this fight. The virus is new. We do not know what the future holds, but we do know that this virus is not to be taken lightly. We have emphasized that from day one, and as the data comes in, we will understand that even more.

Reeves indicated that the president’s “15 days to slow the spread” campaign  may be working eight days in, but there’s not enough data, yet, to be sure.

“We also know that every action we have taken to date does have unintended consequences,” Reeves added. “Every action echoes through our community, affecting thousands of people’s ability to earn a living, affects thousands of families and affects thousands if not hundreds of thousands of lives. These decisions are amongst the hardest of my career.

“I’m hopeful that we do not have to choose between the effects of this virus and the potential for abject poverty coming out of an economic disaster. Our health experts tell us this is not the case, and I trust them.

“I make you a solemn promise: I will take every action that our experts tell us will protect Mississippi’s most vulnerable citizens. That is my job. I will make hard decisions, and I will do what’s right for the people of Mississippi.”

He added, “All of us are in this together. … Be smart, because we do not know when this will end. But have hope, because we do know we will make it through.”

Following Reeves comments, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, state health officer, said that he expects “to see continued increases in cases over the next days and weeks, although we are doing everything we can to figure out how to stop the spread of this virus.”

He also emphasized social distancing, particularly in church and church-related events such as weddings and funerals.

“I know our faith is very important to us, but part of this is for our neighbors,” Dobbs said, “and if we really love our neighbors, we will make sure that we honor these best practices.

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Doctor says Merit Health River Region is ready for COVID-19

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Dr. Carlos Latorre, far right, waits for his turn at the mic on Sunday, March 29. Vicksburg Fire Chief Craig Danczyk and Police Chief Milton Moore are on the left behind Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr. at the podium. (Photo by Thomas Parker)

Mississippi Medicaid Director and Vicksburg family practitioner Dr. Carlos Latorre believes Merit Health is ready for COVID-19.

“Our hospitals are doing well,” Latorre said Sunday during a press conference with Vicksburg and Warren County officials. “We have enough beds, enough staff and enough ventilators.”

Latorre, who also serves on Mississippi’s COVID-19 task force, said about 20 percent of COVID-19 patients will be hospitalized, and 3 to 5 percent will not recover from the virus. Out of the 847 cases reported to date in Mississippi, 195 have required hospitalization, or 23 percent, according to the Mississippi State Department of Health website.

Normally, when health professionals place a patient on a ventilator, they stay on the breathing device for two to four days, the doctor said. For severe cases of COVID-19, which frequently presents as pneumonia in both lungs, patients are staying on ventilators for two weeks straight and some even longer.

“I think Merit Health is ready,” Latorre said. “Vicksburg is a hub for our area. Port Gibson, Issaquena County, Rolling Fork—if people get sick, and they need a higher level of care their facilities can’t provide, they come to Merit Health, and we don’t see that changing.”

With four testing sites in Vicksburg, Latorre said health-care professionals have tested over 100 individuals and two have come back positive.

The first known case in Warren County was an inmate who tested positive for COVID-19 last Thursday. Latorre said that the county where a person is tested is not necessarily where the case is counted. That particular case was added to Rankin County’s total as that is the inmate’s permanent address.

Warren County does, however, have a a confirmed case: A 45-year-old woman who likely contracted the virus when she recently visited New Orleans.

Vicksburg Fire/EMS transported the woman to the hospital.

“Once we got confirmation the 45-year-old female did test positive, we monitored our staff closely for symptoms,” Fire Chief Craig Danczyk said, “and that worked and was very positive. And most of that is because of the precautions we are taking to keep our equipment and workstations sanitized.”

Danczyk said he has canceled vacations for Vicksburg’s first responders to ensure the community is well served during the pandemic.

John Elfer, Warren County Emergency Management director, said he has worked closely with the Mississippi State Department of Health and other state officials to bring drive-through free testing to Vicksburg. As a result, the University of Mississippi Medical Center and MSDH is hosting a one-day testing clinic on Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Latorre believes Warren County will see an increase in COVID-19 numbers due the availability of free testing, but getting quick results could be an issue.

“We are having tests that are not coming back as quickly as we would like,” Latorre said. “Some are taking seven to nine days for us to get the results.”

Waiting that long can be challenging and stressful for health professionals and for patients waiting to learn the results.

Above all else, Latorre, Danczyk and Elfer urge people to stay indoors if they have the ability to do so.

“The majority of the population has complied” with social-distancing recommendations, Danzyck said. “I see a limited number of cars on the road. I think the public has responded positively to the measures taken.”

Danczyk reminded the public to only call 911 if it is an emergency. Warren County E-911 has had an increased number of callers during the pandemic. He also asked callers to be be patient with the dispatcher, as they are instructed to ask questions regarding COVID-19 symptoms before dispatching emergency personnel.

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Steele Bayou gates closed again; Highway 465 closure imminent

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The Steele Bayou Control Structure (photo from USACE)

The gates on the Steele Bayou Control Structure were closed at around 2:30 p.m. Monday, Drew Smith, chief of Water Management for the Vicksburg District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers confirmed to Vicksburg Daily News.

“River conditions are such that the gates needed to close,” Smith said.

The Mississippi River was at 46.69 feet as of 2 p.m. and is projected to crest at 49 feet on April 9.

In a related development, Bob Broadwater with the Mississippi Department of Transportation said MDOT will probably close State Highway 465 once again from Highway 61 to the intersection with the backwater levee within the next 48 hours. Water was already near the edge of the roadway, he said, adding that there is some undermining of the roadway just south of the old gin that will have to be addressed once the water recedes.

Currently, the Backwater is at 94.7 feet, and there are 427,000 total acres flooded including 154,000 acres of crop land, said Levee Board Chief Engineer Peter Nimrod in an email update this afternoon. The Backwater is predicted to crest between 95 feet and 95.5 feet by mid-April. At 95.5 feet there will be 454,000 total acres flooded including 172,000 acres of crop land.

Mississippi River predictions:

Flood Gage Current Stage Predicted Stage Crest & Date
Cairo (Ohio River) 40’ 52.6 Cresting near 52.6’
Memphis 34 35.3 36.5’ on 4/3/20
Helena 44’ 43.2’ 44.5 on 4/5/20
Arkansas City 37’ 39.5’ 42.0’ on 4/6/20
Greenville 48 50.6’ 53.5’ on 4/7/20
Vicksburg 43’ 46.7’ 49.0’ on 4/8/20
Natchez 48’ 53.9’ 56.0’ on 4/9/20

The National Weather Service unofficial forecast for the next 16 days matches up with the official forecast shown above, Nimrod said.

  • Arkansas City is slowly rising and could crest near 42’ in 7 days.
  • Greenville is slowly rising and could crest near 53.5’ in 9 days.
  • Vicksburg is slowly rising and could crest near 49.5’ in 10 days.

Nimrod also provided the following Backwater facts in his update:

  • The Backwater went 33 years (from 1984 until 2017) without ever being above 94 feet (over 400,000 acres flooded).
  • In the past three years, the Backwater has eclipsed 94 feet every year.
  • In 2018, it was above 94 feet for 14 days.
  • In 2019, it was above 94 feet for 147 days.
  • So far in 2020, it has been above 94 feet for 40 days and counting.

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Crime

Vicksburg PD busts a man after he calls to say someone shot into his house; incident report

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Darren Mazie (Photo courtesy VPD)

Vicksburg Police officers arrested a man Saturday for possession of drugs and a gun after he called to say someone had shot into his house.

Officers arrested Darren Mazie, 34, of 3062 Wisconsin Ave., who had reported that his residence had been shot into around 3:30 a.m. March 28. While looking for bullets inside the house, officers saw bags containing over 100 grams of marijuana. He was also in possession of a loaded handgun.

Mazie has been charged with felony possession of marijuana and possession of a firearm by a felon.

Other reported incidents for Friday March 27 through Sunday, March 29:

Officers responded to a residence in the 200 block of Hillside Drive in for an auto burglary on Sunday, March 29, at 3:53 p.m. The victim stated that someone went into her glove box and stole her 9mm Taurus handgun. The vehicle had been left unlocked the previous night.

Vicksburg Police officers responded to three shots fired calls. They found no evidence of shots fired at any of the scenes.

  • Friday at 11:27 p.m., officers responded to the area of Second and National streets.
  • Sunday, at 1:48 a.m., officers responded to the 2000 block of Martin Luther King Boulevard.
  • Sunday at 9:12 p.m., officers responded to the area of Cherry Street at East Avenue.

If you have information on any of these incidents, please call the Vicksburg Police Department at 601-636-2511.

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