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TATE REEVES

Gov says Mississippi not ‘dictator’ on setting virus limits

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said Wednesday that he is rejecting “dictator models like China” to strictly control people’s movements to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.

“We’re following our experts and I’ve spent many sleepless nights praying for wisdom in this unprecedented time,” Republican Reeves said on his Facebook and Twitter accounts.

His comments came a day after he issued an executive order that seeks to limit people’s physical interactions. Reeves told restaurants and bars statewide to close their dining rooms and limit service to carry-out or deliver meals. He has encouraged people to remain home, but has not issued a stay-at-home order, as many other governors have done.

Also Wednesday, a day after Reeves said he wants Mississippi’s only abortion clinic to stop doing elective surgeries, the clinic was still seeing patients. Protesters and clinic escorts sometimes stood close to each other on the sidewalk outside, ignoring suggestions by medical professionals that people keep a 6-foot (2-meter) distance between themselves and others.

Mississippi reported its second and third confirmed deaths from the coronavirus on Wednesday, although testing remains so limited in the state that it’s unclear whether the outbreak has caused other deaths without being identified as the reason. The state Health Department said one was a Holmes County man who was 60-65 years old, and the other was a Webster County man who was 65-70 years old. The department said both men had underlying health conditions and died while hospitalized. It did not provide other details. Both counties are rural.

The Health Department said Wednesday that Mississippi had at least 377 confirmed cases as of Tuesday evening. The first death was a Hancock County man with underlying health conditions who died last week in a Louisiana hospital. Because testing remains limited, most people now spreading the highly contagious virus may not know that they’ve been infected.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks, and the overwhelming majority of people recover. But severe cases can need respirators to survive, and with infections spreading exponentially, hospitals across the country are either bracing for a coming wave of patients, or already struggling to keep up.

Some Mississippi cities and counties are setting curfews and other restrictions tighter than the ones ordered statewide by Reeves. Clarksdale, Greenwood, Hattiesburg, Jackson, Meridian, Oxford, Port Gibson and Tupelo are among the cities where officials have told people not to congregate in large groups. Adams County has set a nighttime curfew.

Reeves’ order tells people to stop visiting hospitals, nursing homes or long-term care facilities that house those most vulnerable to becoming sick. An exception is for visiting people receiving “imminent end-of-life care.”

Reeves said Tuesday that he wants businesses to allow “every possible employee” to work from home. His order lists several types of businesses that should remain open because they are considered essential.

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