A popular McComb clergyman died after contracting coronavirus as Gov. Tate Reeves asked churches to close for Easter and state health officials announced 88 new infections and eight new deaths from the pandemic on Wednesday.
Bishop Douglas Webster of Little Rock Missionary Baptist Church in McComb died Tuesday morning. An online fundraiser to help pay for his funeral expenses cropped up Wednesday.
“With a somber soul, my brother Bishop Douglass Webster succumbed to the Covid 19 virus this morning,” his sister Julia Marina said on a gofundme page that seeks to raise $4,000 for his funeral expenses. “He leaves behind siblings, children and grandchildren who love him dearly. Douglas did not have burial insurance. To help relieve the some of the stress on his daughter Zekeithia, I am asking to please donate what you can to provide an honorable funeral service for this man of God.”
Webster’s death is the first recorded in state statistics in Pike County. He’s among 67 Mississippians who have died from the virus as of Wednesday, according to state statistics on the virus.
State officials reported 2,003 confirmed cases since March 11.
Wednesday was the first day for the state to release data on race, with 56% of cases affecting African Americans, 37% affecting whites and 7% affecting people of other races.
The virus has killed more blacks by far, with 72% of deaths.
In a Wednesday afternoon address, Gov. Tate Reeves asked religious leaders to consider canceling in-person services this weekend, noting he doesn’t have the right to shut down churches but he has the authority to ask them to do so.
“We will honor the Resurrection while protecting our neighbors,” Reeves said. “Church is not a building. Easter is not about eggs.”
Reeves said Mississippi faces unique challenges in combatting coronavirus because of its high number of people living with chronic medical conditions.
“Our health stats made it particularly challenging for many of our people,” he said. “If we practice social distancing ... if we can make good decisions for the next couple of weeks, I do believe that we’ll have been able to slow the spread to a point where our hospital system is not overwhelmed.”
State epidemiologist Paul Byers cautioned that day-to-day results will fluctuate and pleaded with the public to continue adhering to aggressive social distancing guidelines.
“We hope to see some consistent downturns eventually, but I don’t think we’re at that point yet,” Byers said.
Pike County had 33 cases and one death — an increase of two cases since Tuesday.
Locally, hospital officials are encouraged by several positive developments.
A critically ill patient receiving treatment at the hospital is recovering, Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center CEO Charla Rowley said Wednesday.
“I also want to report that through the relentless efforts our ICU clinical care team, one of our positive patients was able to be taken off the ventilator and is making great strides to recovery,” Rowley said. “That’s another life saved from this vicious virus! I ask that you continue to keep our patients and our staff in your prayers. Your love and support truly mean more to us than you know.”
None of 15 coronavirus tests returned positive Tuesday, she said.
Officials at the hospital and system clinics had tested 298 people and received notification of 33 positive results. Two confirmed coronavirus patients are being treated at the hospital and another 11 inpatients are suspected of having the infection.
Among patients tested at the hospital, 15% have returned positive. Of those patients, 21% required hospitalization, Rowley said.
Amite County reported seven confirmed infections and one death and Wilkinson County had 33 confirmed infections and three deaths.
The Jr. Food Mart in Liberty is back open after briefly shutting-down operations in a coronavirus scare in March.
The store closed its doors for disinfection and so employees could quarantine after two of them apparently reported suffering symptoms believed to be caused by the infection, however, the employees tested negative.
In Lincoln County, confirmed infections jumped by five to 26 on Wednesday, and another outbreak was reported at a long term care facility, making the second such outbreak reported in the county.
Lawrence County had six confirmed cases, Walthall County had 15 and Franklin County had five.
Statewide, deaths are reported among patients in Amite, Bolivar, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Coahoma, DeSoto, Forrest, Hancock, Harrison, Hinds, Holmes, Humphreys, Jackson, Lafayette, Lamar, Lauderdale, Lee, Leflore, Lincoln, Madison, Marshall, Monroe, Montgomery, Oktibbeha, Panola, Pearl River, Perry, Pike, Pontotoc, Rankin, Sunflower, Tippah, Tunica, Washington, Webster, Wilkinson and Yazoo counties.
The Jackson metro area is experiencing a severe outbreak. Hinds County has the most confirmed infections statewide at 178 and two outbreaks in long-term care facilities. Madison County had 83 confirmed infections and two deaths and Rankin County had 79 and two deaths.
The MSDH public health lab in Jackson performed 6,309 and 14,061 people have been tested by private labs. Of tests performed by the state, 670 returned positive.
In Louisiana, the number of confirmed infections increased to 17,030 Wednesday afternoon, with 652 deaths and 1,983 patients receiving treatment in hospitals. Of those patients, 490 were on ventilators in ICU.
The New Orleans metro area is particularly hard hit, with Orleans Parish reporting 5,070 infections and 208 deaths.
Nearby Washington Parish had 106 infections and five deaths and Tangipahoa Parish had 269 infections and four deaths. St. Helena Parish had 10 cases and no deaths and East Feliciana Parish had 39 cases and one death.
The United States remained the country with the most confirmed infections worldwide Wednesday afternoon with 419,975 and 14,262 deaths.