- Associated Press - Friday, June 26, 2020

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The Mississippi Department of Health announced an additional 550 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus Friday, after record-high numbers reported the day before.

After the department reported 1,092 new cases of coronavirus Thursday, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs warned of continuing increases if people do not take social distancing and mask-wearing seriously.

“If we’re not careful, Mississippi is going to look like New York at the height of the pandemic,” Dobbs said at a press briefing.

On Friday evening, Gov. Tate Reeves announced the extension of his Safe Return Executive Order, which limits the amount of people who can gather in groups, and recommends retail stores, bars and restaurants limit capacity to 50%. The Safe Return Order is extended through July 6. Reeves also extended all unemployment benefits to those out of work due to the coronavirus until the end of July.

“The threat is far from over. Extending our Safe Return order will give us much-needed time to assess this rapidly-changing situation and adapt our response to slow the spread,” Reeves said in a statement.

Reeves said he needs Mississippians to increase their efforts to follow health and safety guidelines.

“We’re taking every step possible at the state-level to protect public health, but we can’t do it alone,” he said. The only way through this pandemic is together. I urge my fellow Mississippians to do their part to help limit transmission in their communities and take care of each other.”

In his order, Reeves also announced that public pools can now be open 24 hours a day if social distancing is adhered to. Concession stands at sporting complexes can now be open if employees wear masks and customers stand 6 feet apart.

The Health Department said Friday that Mississippi - with a population of about 3 million - has had at least 25,066 cases and 1,022 deaths from the coronavirus as of Thursday evening. That is six additional deaths from the day before.

The Health Department said at least 2,514 cases of the virus have been confirmed in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes, with at least 507 virus-related deaths in those facilities.

The number of coronavirus infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick. For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause severe symptoms and be fatal.


Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

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