UPDATED: Governor tightens COVID-19 restrictions on Lauderdale, neighboring counties

Bill Graham / The Meridian Star

A customer wearing a mask enters the Dollar General store on 24th Avenue in Meridian on Tuesday. Gov. Tate Reeves signed a new executive order Tuesday issuing additional social distancing guidelines for seven counties identified as COVID-19 hotspots, including Lauderdale, Newton and Neshoba Counties. 

Gov. Tate Reeves signed a new executive order Tuesday issuing additional social distancing guidelines for seven counties identified as COVID-19 hotspots, including Lauderdale, Newton and Neshoba counties. 

According to the order, employees of all businesses should be screened daily and must wear a mask if they cannot maintain 6 feet of distance from others.

In retail businesses, all customers must wear a mask, as well as employees who come in direct contact with customers, the order states.

Everyone in public must maintain 6 feet of distance from others and those attending outdoor public events, such as live auctions or flea markets, will be required to wear a mask.

“I really believe and I hope that these rules will have an impact, but I also hope that they will serve as a signal to people in these counties,” Reeves said in a news conference. “Please, if you live in those counties, be extra aware of your actions and the risk you face.”

State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said the state's eastern counties had a "significantly higher burden of disease" than the Jackson metro area and surrounding counties. 

“If you look at the sheer number of cases compared to their population ... it’s a powerful indicator of additional work needing to be done,” Dobbs said. 

The total number of COVID-19 cases in Lauderdale County surpassed 500 Tuesday, according to data from the Mississippi State Department of Health.

MSDH reported nine new cases of COVID-19 in the county, for a total of 501, and one additional death, for a total of 45 deaths. 

As of Tuesday, Anderson Regional Medical Center was hospitalizing 27 people who have tested positive for COVID-19, the hospital's website said.

Rush Foundation Hospital is not reporting daily COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Mississippi COVID-19 map May 11

Mississippi COVID-19 map posted May 11, 2020.

Meridian Mayor Percy Bland, the Meridian Housing Authority and state and local officials have announced plans to distribute 3,800 masks to families living in underserved communities in the Meridian Housing Authority, according to a news release.

The event will take place Thursday, May 14 at the MHA Envision Center, 804 42nd Avenue, Meridian. 

The number of Mississippians currently hospitalized with COVID-19 infection has risen to 450, according to the health department.

MSDH reported 87 cases and nine deaths in Clarke County, 97 cases and seven deaths in Kemper County, 326 cases and 16 deaths in Neshoba County and 147 cases and one death in Newton County. 

The University of Mississippi Medical Center and MSDH will hold a one-day testing site in Neshoba County on Wednesday, May 13 at Bogue Chitto Facility Building, 11350 Highway 491 North, Philadelphia and in Clarke County on Friday, May 15 at Clarke County Emergency Management Agency, 642 S. Archusa Ave., Quitman.

To be tested, an individual must first complete a screening using the C Spire Health smartphone app. Those without smartphones who want to be screened for testing can call (601) 496-7200.

Testing hours are from noon - 4 p.m. and only those with appointments will be tested.

State health officials confirmed 234 new cases of COVID-19 in Mississippi Tuesday, for a total of 9,908 and 22 additional deaths, for a total of 457 deaths statewide.

Seven of the deaths confirmed Tuesday, including the death reported in Lauderdale County, were identified from death certificates between April 25 and May 3, according to the health department.

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