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The count of confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in Leflore County doubled to eight Thursday, according to Greenwood Mayor Carolyn McAdams.

McAdams, who is herself self-quarantined at home as a precaution, said four new positive tests of COVID-19 have been reported to her by Greenwood Leflore Hospital.

As with the first four cases, none of these latest ones required hospitalization, she said. All are at home recovering and self-quarantined.

The mayor said she had no other details about the newest cases, including whether the transmission of the virus to them was connected to the first four to be infected.


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Meanwhile, McAdams has requested that all bars in the city close and that all restaurants only offer takeout and delivery in response to the outbreak of the virus, which claimed its first life of a Mississippi resident Thursday.

McAdams said she does not have the legal authority to mandate the hospitality businesses to close or scale back their operations, but she was strongly encouraging them to do so.

“I know it’s hard, and no one wants it to happen,” McAdams said. “But the sad thing is that to get on the back side of this virus, we’ve got to tackle it aggressively to stop it spreading.”

Johnny Ballas, owner of The Crystal Grill, a Greenwood dining landmark, said he would abide by the mayor’s request but that it could force him to close down until the virus scare abates.

“We’ll comply with whatever the city thinks is prudent. I’m all for being safe,” he said. “It’s just whether economically it’s going to work for us.”

Although most of the fast-food restaurants in Greenwood had already converted to drive-through service only, some of the eateries that have predominately dine-in traffic have continued to try to operate, while making accommodations to the health concerns. The Crystal Grill had spaced out tables 6 to 8 feet apart and implemented enhanced sanitizing measures.

On Thursday night, Ballas said, his restaurant had the most diners it has seen in days, helping to offset a week where business had been off by half.

He said he was skeptical that he will be able to do enough takeout orders to keep his doors open.

“I guess we will try it for a while and see.”

McAdams and three other city leaders — Councilmen Johnny Jennings and Charles McCoy and Main Street Executive Director Brantley Snipes — began self-quarantining at home earlier this week after learning they had been potentially exposed to the coronavirus while attending a conference last week in Washington, D.C.

McAdams said Thursday she was still experiencing no symptoms of the disease, but she worried whether she could unwittingly be a carrier.

“The thing is, you can have it and carry it and might not know you ever had it,” she said. “I’m fine, but if I went out in the public, ... I could be giving it to people and not even know it.”

The mayor said she and the other three are supposed to stay in quarantine through Tuesday.

The Mississippi State Department of Health updates its coronavirus count every morning. It was showing 50 cases Thursday, which would not include the four newly confirmed infections in Leflore County.

Most people who come down with the disease have relatively mild symptoms, but it can be deadly for some, especially the elderly and those with underlying health problems. Most people infected with the virus recover in a matter of weeks.

The state Health Department reported Thursday that Mississippi experienced its first death from the virus — a male, age 60 to 65, from Hancock County, who had chronic underlying conditions. He died in a Louisiana hospital, the Health Department said.

More than 600 people have been tested in Mississippi for the virus so far.

As the number of documented infections rises, there has been a steady shutting down of most of the communal aspects of life in Greenwood. In addition to school closings, many churches have suspended in-person worship services, with some offering them online instead. Several chain-operated stores, including J.C. Penney’s, have closed at least until April. A number of banks have closed their buildings to public access, as has City Hall. The Leflore County Board of Supervisors was expected to meet Friday morning to discuss steps to keep its workers safe.

McAdams said she was generally encouraged by the public’s willingness to adjust its lifestyle to follow the recommendations of health experts and government officials.

“I’ve been very, very proud of Greenwood, the way they’re handling this. People are calling, they’re emailing, they’re asking what they can to do make us safe. They’re taking it seriously,” she said.

By aggressively limiting human contact now, the mayor said, she hopes the duration of the pandemic’s effect in the country will be shortened.

“Like the doctor said that’s on the president’s COVID-19 task force team, you can either climb a mountain or a hill. I’d like to climb a hill rather than a mountain so that we can get to the other side quicker and better.”

Contact Tim Kalich at 581-7243 or tkalich@gwcommonwealth.com.

 

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