The total number of presumptive and confirmed cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Mississippi has risen to 50 as of Thursday morning, with still only two cases in Hancock County, according to the Mississippi State Department of Health.

According to the MSDH, the new cases include three in Harrison County; three in Pearl River County; and one each in Jackson, DeSoto, Forrest, Holmes, Jones, Smith, Walthall, Wilkinson, Winston and Yazoo counties.

On Thursday morning, Gov. Tate Reeves signed an executive order closing all public schools until April 17, giving the state more time to further evaluate the effects of COVID-19.

Waveland Mayor Mike Smith and the Board of Aldermen on Wednesday evening voted to declare the existence of a local emergency in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. The move will allow the city to apply for emergency resources, should the need arise, Smith said.

As of 10 a.m. Thursday, the Bay St. Louis Police Department has implemented new procedures for officers and employees to help reduce exposure to the virus.

“We ask you for patience as we continue to evaluate information and procedures in response to the virus,” Chief Gary Ponthieux Jr. said in a press release.

“Until further notice, it is requested that citizens not come to the police station for non-emergency walk-in complaints,” Ponthieux said. “Instead, we encourage our citizens to contact Central Dispatch at 228-255-9191. The Bay St. Louis Police Department will be able to respond to non-emergency complaints via telephone. Officers will still be able to complete reports and provide relevant information.”

Ponthieux asked that people who do meet with officers in response to complaints do so outside when possible, and that if they have been exposed to the virus or are experiencing symptoms of it, they notify the dispatcher prior to the officer’s arrival.

“Officers have been instructed to practice safe distances and other techniques to limit exposure,” Ponthieux said. “The Bay St. Louis Police Department will continue to provide essential public safety services to our community during this evolving event.”

The MSDH Public Health Laboratory is testing samples submitted by Mississippi physicians and healthcare providers around the state in cases where COVID-19 is determined to be a risk. Anyone with symptoms of fever, severe cough or severe chest pains – especially those who are older or in poor health – should call their doctor or healthcare provider for instructions on safely being examined. Healthcare providers can assess your health history and symptoms, and perform testing for COVID-19 as needed. According to the latest MSDH update, 602 people had been tested in Mississippi as of Thursday morning.

Private laboratories in the state are now performing COVID-19 tests in addition to those processed by the MSDH Public Health laboratory.

Mississippi Coronavirus Hotline (8 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday through Friday): 877-978-6453

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