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Local organizations, agencies ready for coronavirus

A number of organizations and institutions in the region are taking precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, commonly referred to as the new coronavirus.

Local law enforcement

The Pearl River County Sheriff’s Office decided Thursday that inmate visitation would be suspended until further notice at the Pearl River County jail to prevent staff, inmate and visitors from potential exposure to COVID-19. Attorneys are still able to visit their clients.

The department made the decision after the state notified it that it was suspending all visitation for state inmates, said Sheriff David Allison. The suspended visitation is expected to last several weeks, and will be reopened when the department feels it is safe to do so, said Allison.

If any inmates do come down with the virus, they will be isolated in a dorm by themselves to keep them out of the general population and reduce the risk of spreading the virus, said Allison.

Friday’s bond return date was cancelled and rescheduled for April 17.

“We’ll still be doing our job. This will not deter us from arresting anybody on the streets that needs to be arrested. They will be brought to this facility to be incarcerated,” said Allison.

The Picayune Police Department has no plans to limit visitation to the city jail, because there is no physical contact between visitors and inmates at the jail, said Assistant Chief Dustin Moeller.

Local Schools

The Mississippi Department of Health directed schools not to hold any indoor gatherings of 250 people or more. To follow that guidance, the Pearl River County School District has canceled some field trips that may be rescheduled for later in the school year, said Superintendent Alan Lumpkin, and the District has cancelled a student assembly where a speaker was supposed to speak with students about ACT testing.

The Mississippi High School Activities Association has not recommended cancelling or restricting sporting events at this time. The MHSAA website states that contingency plans are being made in case of statewide school cancellations or delays.

The school districts are making decisions under guidance from the state’s departments of health and education, said Lumpkin.

“A lot of parents are wanting us to make decisions about future events, and we just cannot make decisions about those events at this time because we have not received guidance at this time,” said Lumpkin.

As soon as the schools have any updates, parents and students will know, said Lumpkin.

Senior Center of South Pearl River County

The Senior Center will maintain regular hours and regularly scheduled classes, said Director David Sykes. The center cancelled a field trip to Biloxi at the end of the month, which will be rescheduled. Members are being provided with a one-page information sheet from Forrest General. Staff are encouraging those who feel sick to stay home, and are more aggressively disinfecting tables, chairs and doorknobs multiple times a day.

The center will probably add some staff hours to handle the extra cleaning and disinfecting, which may cost more money. The center currently has enough cleaning supplies, although if anyone wanted to contribute cleaning supplies or hand sanitizers, those items would be welcome, said Sykes.

“Luckily, most of our seniors don’t travel out of state or have a lot of out of state visitors, so other than in the community they’re not really exposed to a lot of risk,” said Sykes. “They have to be diligent anyway, regardless of corona, with their health issues because they’re vulnerable.”

Pearl River County Libraries

Out of an abundance of caution, the Pearl River County Library system is temporarily suspending children’s programs, including Spring Story Hour, Baby and Me and Family Fun Night.

Amtrak

Amtrak is waiving change fees on all existing or new reservations made before April 30, 2020, according to a press release from Amtrak Media Relations. Fare differences may apply to a new itinerary.

The release states that Amtrak is cleaning trains and stations with increased frequency. Cleaning is being done multiple times a day and in some instances hourly, the release states.