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Mississippi governor issues stay-at-home order

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) on Wednesday afternoon announced a stay-at-home order for the state in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are all in danger from coast to coast. As leaders, our top priority is and always will be the safety of our citizens,” Reeves said in a press conference announcing the order.

He said the decision was made Tuesday afternoon as “more data began to arrive” and public health experts informed him the order was necessary for the state.

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“This will not be easy for anyone, but we believe it is the right course of action. We know that there are some who still do not have a healthy fear of this virus. They are wrong, and they are risking lives if they do not take this very, very seriously,” Reeves said.

The order is set to take effect Friday at 5 p.m., Reeves said, and it will be “enforced.”

State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs noted that the state’s current case count stood at more than 1,000 and that the number of cases specifically in nursing homes had been on the rise.

“We really are still at the front of this thing but if we can use this tool to slow things down … that’s what we’re doing,” Dobbs said, saying the order would prevent the state’s health system from becoming overwhelmed.

On Wednesday, Mississippi reported 1,073 confirmed cases the virus and 22 deaths, including 136 new cases since Tuesday, the largest single-day increase yet.

Reeves had resisted the more stringent restrictions imposed by other governors in the weeks after the first positive was reported in the state March 11, while allowing local governments to impose tighter guidelines.

However, on Wednesday the Mississippi Academy of Family Physicians called on Reeves to impose a stay-at-home order along the lines of neighboring Tennessee’s, telling Reeves and Dobbs that such a move would lead to “fewer infections and fewer deaths,” according to the Clarion-Ledger.

Six state senators representing coastal areas also urged Reeves to close all public and private beaches in a letter Tuesday through at least April 30, calling for “specific and immediate actions be taken in response to the treatment and spread” of the virus along the Gulf Coast.