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Board told COVID-19 peak expected in one to two weeks

Pearl River County is expected to see a peak in COVID-19 cases in the next 7 to 14 days, said District V Supervisor Sandy Kane Smith at the Pearl River County Board of Supervisors meeting Monday.

Highland Community Hospital Administrator Bryan Maxie gave Smith the estimate based on computer software that is being used to model the spread of the disease, said Smith.

“He just wanted me to stress that to everyone here today, how important it is to take shelter at home, which means stay there,” said Smith.

Smith passed on a message from Maxie, reminding families to avoid taking their entire family to the grocery store. Sending one family member to the store instead is a way people can slow the spread of COVID-19. Slowing the spread of COVID-19 is a matter of life and death for people in the community, said Smith, because the faster the virus spreads the bigger the strain on the local healthcare system.

State representative Jansen Owen told the Board he had heard that Governor Tate Reeves planned to decide on shelter in place orders for some counties in Mississippi at 3 p.m. Monday, but Pearl River County was not expected to be on that list.

To avoid confusion, the Board decided to wait until Reeves issues his order to determine whether more measures should be taken in Pearl River County to limit the spread of COVID-19.

By Monday afternoon, no such announcement was made by Reeves.

County Employees

The Board approved a motion asking all county offices to limit staff to the minimum number they would need to run, effective March 31. Elected officials and the County Administrator will determine which employees are essential for departments to continue to run. The Board discussed having rotating schedules for employees, where employees rotate working from home between interacting with the public via working at the office.

County employees who are told to stay home will continue to receive pay, while employees who are required to continue coming to a workplace will receive hazard pay of time and a half. The Board order is in effect for two weeks, and will be reevaluated on April 13.

The road department plans to have one crew working at the north end of the county and one crew working at the south end of the county.

Emergency Management

Volunteer firefighters in the county are not responding to possible COVID-19 medical calls, said Emergency Operations Manager Danny Manley. Instead they are focused on fires, car wrecks or incidents with trauma, said Manley. AAA Ambulance runs through a questionnaire to determine if someone has COVID-19 symptoms when they speak with someone who calls for an ambulance. If the person has symptoms, AAA Ambulance handles the call and does not call the volunteer fire departments to respond, said Manley.

Manley said he is spreading personal protection equipment as thin as possible. The local hospitals are receiving PPE directly from the Department of Health, while he’s been able to distribute PPE to doctor offices and clinics that have requested them. First responders all have some PPE as well, said Manley. Manley was delivering some N95 masks Monday and expected to receive more surgical masks on Monday.

Marriage Licenses

The Board approved a motion to declare issuing marriage licenses non-essential. The decision was to support Circuit Clerk Nance Stokes, who has already been declining to issue marriage licenses in an effort to reduce the number of people visiting her office and to slow the spread of COVID-19.

In a separate matter, the Board entered executive session to discuss potential litigation with Mark Gibson.

The next regular Board meeting is scheduled for April 6.