A patient died of coronavirus at Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center Monday night, marking the second COVID-19 death at the hospital, officials said.

The man was admitted to SMRMC last week after testing positive at another medical facility, hospital CEO Charla Rowley said Tuesday.

“I realize these are very unprecedented times and there is much uncertainty, but please continue to follow the recommended guidelines to stop the spread,” she said in a statement on the hospital web site.

Rowley said social distancing is proving effective, with the number of cases projected to peak on April 18, three days earlier than the initial estimate.

“Health officials are saying this week will be the worst week of this pandemic in the United States,” Rowley said. “We have the opportunity to reduce the impact and make our peak even sooner if we continue to follow the guidelines and stay home.”

Hospital staff had triaged 506 patients at the cough and fever clinic and tested 275 people across system facilities as of Tuesday morning. Of 197 results, 33 returned positive, Rowley said. She did not identify the county of residence for patients who tested positive.

State officials reported 177 new cases and eight new deaths on Tuesday for a total of 1,915 confirmed cases that resulted in 59 deaths.

Pike County had 31 cases and no deaths, an increase of two cases since Monday morning.

Amite County reported seven confirmed infections and one death.  

Wilkinson County, one of the most infected counties in the state, had 32 confirmed cases and three deaths.

Lincoln County had 21 confirmed infections and one death, Lawrence County had five confirmed cases, Walthall County had 14 and Franklin County had five.

In other developments, Gov. Tate Reeves said Monday that coronavirus treatment would be free for all in Mississippi. He said insurance companies will waive their charges and the federal government will foot the bill for those without medical insurance.

On Tuesday, Reeves recommended people to wear a mask over their mouth and nose if they leave their homes and urged people to contact friends and family who may be alone and depressed, calling suicide as dangerous as the virus itself.

“Do something active, get out in nature, read a book instead of watching cable TV,” he said.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency created a website for vendors and manufacturers to volunteer skills, services and supplies to the coronavirus relief effort. More information can be found at MSBEOC.org.

The impact of coronavirus is more intense among African American in Mississippi, State Epidemiologist Paul Byers said. More than 50% of cases statewide are among African Americans and so are more than 50% of deaths.

“If you do get tested, that’s the time that you need to start isolating,” Byers said. “Don’t wait for the results.”

Byers said sick pet owners should practice social distancing from their animals. While a house pet cannot infect their owner, Byers said doctors aren’t sure if humans can pass the virus to animals.

Statewide, deaths have been reported among patients in Amite, Bolivar, Chickasaw, Choctaw, DeSoto, Forrest, Hancock, Harrison, Holmes, Humphreys, Jackson, Lafayette, Lamar, Lauderdale, Lee, Leflore, Lincoln, Madison, Marshall, Monroe, Montgomery, Oktibbeha, Panola, Pearl River, Perry, Pontotoc, Rankin, Sunflower, Tippah, Tunica, Washington, Webster, Wilkinson and Yazoo counties.

Hinds County has the most confirmed infections statewide at 169 and two outbreaks in long-term care facilities. DeSoto County had 140 and one death.

The Jackson metro area is experiencing a severe outbreak.  Madison County had 82 confirmed infections and two deaths and Rankin County had 78 and one death.

The state’s public health lab in Jackson performed 6,568 and 14,061 people have been tested by private labs. Of tests performed by the state, 650 — about 10% — returned positive.

In Louisiana, the number of confirmed infections increased to 16,284 Tuesday afternoon.

Among patients, 582 had died and 1,996 were being treated in hospitals. Of those patients, 519 were on ventilators in ICU.

The New Orleans metro area is particularly hard hit, with Orleans Parish reporting 4,942 infections and 185 deaths.

Nearby Washington Parish had 100 infections and two deaths and Tangipahoa Parish had 238 infections and three deaths.

The United States remained the country with the most confirmed infections worldwide Monday with 386,800 and 12,285 deaths.

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