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Someone has spray painted over the blue line for handicapped parking and has marked it COVID-19 parking along the Natchez Trace near Tupelo, Miss., Thursday, April 2, 2020. (Thomas Wells/The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal via AP)

Outbreak: Mississippi gets disaster declaration to speed aid

Mississippi on Sunday become the latest U.S. state declared a major disaster area by President Donald Trump amid the new coronavirus outbreak, giving the state access to more federal assistance to confront the pandemic.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves announced Friday that he has asked Trump to issue a major disaster declaration for Mississippi because of the coronavirus, in order to make additional aid available.

Trump’s declaration was the latest in a series of major disaster declarations around the country. It makes federal funds available to eligible state, local and tribal governments and some private nonprofits for emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance.

The Mississippi Health Department’s latest count Saturday showed more than 1,600 positive tests for the virus and 43 deaths. The state has about 3 million residents.

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.

Earlier Sunday, the president declared South Dakota a major disaster area with 240 confirmed cases and two deaths, and Delaware with more than 670 cases and 14 deaths. Other states that recently received major disaster declarations include Arizona, Utah, Nevada and Maine.

Mississippi’s declaration comes after a statewide stay-at-home order took effect Friday evening in a bid to slow the state’s growing number of COVID-19 cases.

Reeves has said people should limit their outings to essential errands like grocery shopping. He said law enforcement officers will break up big groups of people who are out socializing. Grocery stores, pharmacies and other businesses deemed essential will remain open during the stay-home order that runs until the morning of April 20.

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