There will be no pomp or circumstance with the cancellation of at least one graduation ceremony. Circuit court will continue to suspend sessions. Local municipalities are operating under states of emergencies. And even the dead can’t escape the ramifications of the coronavirus outbreak.

Meanwhile, more closures and cancellations are popping up in Pike County in response to the outbreak.

SMCC moves classes online,

Cancels graduation

Southwest Mississippi Community College President Steve Bishop announced Wednesday that the school will move to online instruction through the end of the spring semester. Students can find more information about assignments on the school’s website Monday.

All meetings of groups or events with over 10 people are canceled, including all athletic events and spring commencement exercises. Graduating students will receive diplomas in the mail.

Residence halls will reopen at 6 p.m. Sunday and cafeteria services will be available on an adjusted schedule and without dine-in options. Students who want to continue living in the residence halls need to complete a form stating why.

Full-time employees were to return to campus today to help with the transition to remote learning.

Emergencies declared

Magnolia Mayor Anthony Witherspoon declared a state of emergency in response to concerns over the virus on Wednesday.

His action followed a similar move by the McComb city board on Tuesday.

Witherspoon said the city would follow all state guidelines pertaining to the spread of the virus.

In addition to state guidelines, Magnolia will operate under emergency protocol, in which city operations will be maintained by only essential personnel.

Other employees are asked to stay home on “stand-by status” for the next 14 days.

City offices will be operating between 8:30 a.m. and noon until April 1. Department heads will remain on call and the decision will be reconsidered on or before April 1.

The declaration asks police to take precautions, including wearing gloves when making contact with the public.

City parks, the farmer’s market pavilion and community center will be closed for at least two weeks.

Water disconnections are suspended for the next two weeks, to be re-evaluated April 1, although residents are still required to pay their bills.  

Travel for city employees for any distance more than 100 miles is suspended for the next 30 days, unless deemed necessary by the mayor and city board.

City employees who travel more than 100 miles or live with someone who has are required to report to their immediate supervisor.

Any employee who travels internationally is required to stay home for 14 days before returning to work during the next 30 days.

All city meetings, zoning or code enforcement hearing or public gatherings of more than 10 people for the next 14 days have been suspended.

The city will not collect court fines for the next 14 days, and the execution of the municipal court docket will be left to the discretion of the city judge.

All policies will be re-evaluated by April 1.  

No court through March 30

The 14th District Circuit Court also handed down new guidelines Wednesday afternoon.

All docket items will be canceled until at least March 30. Court terms will be permitted until May 18 and cases set for jury trial will be continued until the next term of court for that county and judge beyond May 18.

People are asked to contact court administrators in regard to scheduling of cases other than trial. Priority will be given to bonds, bench warrants, pleas, sentencings and revocations. Cases will be set for time-specific settings rather than general docket call days, in order to remain compliant with Supreme Court Administrative Orders and Centers for Disease Control guidelines.

Civil motions will be reset, the grand jury will be rescheduled, drug court will be scheduled independent of other court proceedings and drug court graduation will also be rescheduled, court officials said Wednesday.

Paying respects

The virus is also affecting local funeral home operations.

Chip Haskell of Hartman-Jones Funeral Home asks those who intend on attending a visitation to be brief and leave the funeral home as quickly as possible. People experiencing illness are asked not to attend visitations.

Sharkey Funeral Home delivered a similar message, asking that people use good judgment when in contact with others at the establishment, and to avoid attending services if experiencing illness.

Stores, banks affected

Some retail operations are minimizing operations.

Goody’s in Edgewood Mall will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday and from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. The store will increase the frequency of cleanings and advise employees to stay home if they aren’t feeling well, according to a press release.

Regions Bank announced effective today it will limit its services to drive-through operations, and in-office business will be handled by appointment only.

Cases continue to rise

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 spiked in Mississippi by nearly a third Wednesday morning, with the State Department of Health announcing the identification of 13 new cases, up from 21 the day before. As of Wednesday the state had 34 coronavirus cases.

Harrison County confirmed three new cases, Bolivar, Coahoma and Pearl River counties confirmed two new cases each and DeSoto, Hancock, Madison and Perry counties confirmed one new case each.

Previous cases have been identified in Copiah, Forrest, Harrison, Hinds, Jackson, Leflore and Monroe Counties, brining the total number of affected counties to 14 of 82. State health officials said 513 people had been tested as of Wednesday.

There were still no lab-confirmed cases of the respiratory disease caused by infection of a novel coronavirus in Southwest Mississippi as of Wednesday.  

Other states are clamping down hard on measures to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus, shutting down businesses and schools and encouraging citizens to enter voluntary self-quarantine, but not Mississippi.

As the number of confirmed cases and virus-related deaths continue to rise, people across the U.S. are falling ill at an increasing rate, and with the lack of comprehensive testing the numbers are likely to be under-reported.

At the known rate of transmission, which is believed to be lower than the true rate because of a lack of widespread testing, Mississippi could see 37% of the state population infected.

The 34 confirmed cases could spike to 764 in a week if the rate of transmission remains the same.

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