All types of Mississippi businesses were being allowed to reopen Monday as Gov. Tate Reeves lifted his final orders that had closed them for several weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The openings were taking place even as virus case numbers continued to climb. The state health officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, said Monday that during the weekend, Mississippi saw its highest usage of ventilators so far by patients hospitalized with COVID-19. He said people made sacrifices the past two months to mitigate the spread of the highly contagious virus.
“We don’t want to let that turn back by being unwise,” Dobbs said.
Businesses are supposed to limit the number of customers and take precautions such as having hand sanitizer available. Dobbs said people should wear masks when they’re away from their homes and should avoid big groups. He said even smaller gatherings, such as card games, can spread the virus.
Indoor entertainment venues such as movie theaters, bowling alleys and trampoline parks were in the last group of businesses allowed to start operating again under the Republican governor’s new order that took effect Monday. In recent weeks, Reeves had already allowed barbershops, beauty salons, tattoo parlors and casinos to reopen and restaurants to start offering dine-in options.
“Our action to allow people to get back to work can be misinterpreted, so let me be incredibly clear,” Reeves said Monday. “Coronavirus is deadly. It is contagious. And it is present all over our state. We need you to be smart. We need you to stay sharp, and please do not let your guard down.”
The state Health Department said Monday that Mississippi – with a population of about 3 million – has had at least 15,752 confirmed cases and 739 deaths from the coronavirus as of Sunday evening. That was an increase of 251 cases and five deaths from the numbers reported a day earlier. The department said about 11,200 people are presumed to have recovered from the virus.
The number of coronavirus infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick. For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. For others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause severe symptoms and be fatal.
The Health Department said at least 1,896 cases of the virus have been confirmed in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes, with at least 374 virus-related deaths in those facilities.
The department also said Monday that nearly 184,000 coronavirus tests had been conducted in Mississippi as of Sunday. More than 7,700 of those were blood tests that detect whether a person has antibodies that usually show up after an infection is resolved.
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