COVID-19 confirmed in county, DRMC testing center set up

By JASMINE STEVERSON JSTEVERSON@DDTONLINE.COM,

Anyone wondering if COVID-19 may be in Washington County no longer has to contemplate.

During a special meeting of the city council on Friday, Delta Regional Medical Center Medical Director Dr. Robert Corkern announced to the council and those in attendance Washington County has confirmed its first case of COVID-19.

“We now have a Washington County confirmed case,” Corkern said. “The only reason we don’t have more is because testing has been very limited.”

The DRMC Pavilion, 1693 Fairgrounds Road, is set up as a center for testing for patients who are concerned about the virus. The nurses on staff are assessing patients and tests will be administered as necessary. Patients will stay in their cars while a clinician performs the assessment.

Corkern emphasized with COVID-19, there are no symptoms initially.

“So, a person can have the disease and not have any symptoms at all and have no clue that they have it and they’re spreading it — that’s the reason for the social distancing, hand sanitizer and precautions,” he said.

DRMC CEO Scott Christensen said due to the recent developments, DRMC has restricted the hospital to no visitors.

“Anything beyond that would require a physician’s order,” he said. 
If someone suspects they may have contracted the virus, they are encouraged to call the DRMC Coronavirus Hotline at 662-725-6000. The phone is manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week

With the exception of businesses providing essential services, such as grocers and pharmacies, the City of Greenville has ordered to limit the number of patronage and gatherings to 10 people or less. 

The order will be strictly enforced by the Greenville Police Department and failure to comply will result in the suspension of operations until further notice from the city. 

The council also voted to close traffic through City Hall but will still conduct business during normal operation hours. 

For those who have any issues or concerns, the action line will be open to take calls as well as the city hall offices.

Washington County Board of Supervisors president Carl McGee was also in attendance and informed others in attendance staffing throughout the county has been reduced and those county employees most susceptible to the virus have been furloughed.

All county buildings and venues have been closed and locked until further notice, but the Washington County Courthouse will remain open per the state’s request while adhering to a “five people or less” recommendation being managed by the Sheriff’s Department.

People are asked to make phone calls to check on reservations with county venues and such at 662-332-0633.

“Our purpose is to save lives and protect property. In this particular event, we’re focusing on people over 65 and people with health issues,” Emergency Management director David Burford said. “If everybody does what they are asked to do, we can prevent the spread.”

Mayor Errick Simmons said, “As it relates to bars, clubs and private events, we recommended there be no more than 10 people for social distancing, for failure to do so has created a greater risk to themselves, their families, our first responders and healthcare workers.”   

Multiple council members expressed concerns about the lack of heed being taken as they received calls and reports from residents about gatherings of over 50 people still taking place. 

The general consensus among the council was there needed to be something in place to eliminate risk and ensure compliance with the “no more than 10” rule.

Greenville Police Department chief Delando Wilson and city attorney Andy Alexander agreed with the council’s consensus.

“I do strongly recommend that we have some kind of mandate with ‘teeth’ … some people are just not going to recognize what healthcare professionals are saying to them,” Wilson said.

Burford said the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) CEO informed local agencies that no business or healthcare closings will be enforced by the state and it is the intent of the state to leave such decisions to be made at the local level.

After much deliberation, the council and other local officials agreed a strong protective measure in alignment with what healthcare professionals and law enforcement has recommended be put in place and the order to limit gatherings to 10 people was unanimously approved.