Coping with COVID-19

By KAREN FIORETTI AND BEVERLY CASTEEL,

Two new cases of coronavirus were confirmed in Attala County on Tuesday, bringing the local total to three confirmed cases.

State officials told The Star-Herald they are unable to provide general demographic information about individuals confirmed to have contracted COVID-19 due to the volume of testing and cases. As of Tuesday, 1,872 tests had been conducted with 320 confirmations in Mississippi thus far.

Rumors that an employee of the Kosciusko Walmart store had tested positive on Monday are inaccurate, according to store manager Robert Hawkins. The rumor also indicated the employee had returned to the store after being diagnosed and that an announcement had been made urging potentially susceptible customers to exit the building.

“That is, as far as I know, incorrect. One employee told me they had been tested,” said Hawkins, who noted that the employee was sent home to await results. “We are cleaning and sanitizing as many things as we possibly can numerous times per day.”

Should any Walmart employee test positive, the area(s) in which that individual haas worked are given special attention in terms of cleaning and sanitizing.

On Tuesday morning, the store held its first senior shopping hour from 6 to 7 a.m., giving those 60 or older the ability to shop without larger crowds. According to Hawkins, the practice will continue through the month of April.

“It went really well and even our pharmacy is open at that time, as well,” he said, allowing seniors to get any prescriptions filled at the same time they do their shopping.

Changes made

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many entities in Attala County are taking extra precautions when dealing with the public. The Star-Herald has compiled this information to help our readers understand how the pandemic is affecting local government, education, services and business.

The Star-Herald is committed to continuing our essential service to the community. Our offices currently remain open, though we ask that you practice social distancing when visiting. If you are more comfortable interacting with us by phone or email, call our office at 662-289-2251 or email us at news@starherald.net.

Medical facilities

Baptist Attala Hospital and Baptist Medical Clinic

For current accurate information on how Baptist Memorial Hospital –Attala and its clinic are handling the coronavirus, please see their sponsorship advertisement on page A3.

Premier Medical Group

“As most of you are aware, there have been multiple confirmed cases of coronavirus in our community. Therefore, at increased risk to spread, we at PMG of MS strongly encourage community and business leaders to limit personal contact as much as possible,” said Dr. Gray Wallace, doctor for PMG / Kosciusko and current chief of staff at Baptist Memorial Hospital – Attala.

“As a medical staff, we support any intervention that limits human contact. The CDC recommends groups smaller than 10. We would also like to encourage all residents to limit contact outside the home as much as possible. We are aware of several businesses and churches limiting personal contact, and we applaud these efforts,” he said. “Given the increased ability to test, we expect positive results from COVID-19 testing to increase over the next two weeks. Please be smart and aware of this situation and support our community from afar.”

Premier Medical Group has established protocols following the CDC and State Health Department recommendations for identifying and treating any patients that may have been exposed to COVID-19.

If you think you have the symptoms (fever and cough or shortness of breath) or have been exposed to or been in contact with someone with COVID-19, please call Trace Urgent Care at 662-289-9155. At that point, staff will provide instructions to ensure that both the patient and others at the clinic are treated based on recommended procedures.

Premier is designating Trace Urgent Care as its main clinic for COVID-19 screening.

If you need any other services unrelated to the virus, call 662-289-1800.

It is imperative that individuals call the clinic for an appointment to access services of any kind at this time. Do not just walk in.

Attala County Nursing Center

Since COVID-19 has been identified in this and surrounding counties, there will be visitation restrictions for non-essential persons. Basically, this is a no visitation policy to limit the potential exposure to COVID-19 by facility residents. Only essential persons, staff and healthcare personnel, are allowed entry to the facility at this time. They encourage you to call since you cannot visit in person at this time. They will continue the screening process for symptoms upon entrance to the facility for those allowed, including healthcare personnel (physicians, lab personnel, etc. and staff). Any person with positive symptoms shall be declined entry to the facility.

They are providing this protective action in conjunction with the recommendations of the State Health Department, the CDC, CMS and the facility medical director.

Per the recommendations of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), all non-emergent appointments have been canceled. In addition, all outside group activities have been canceled until further notice. They will continue to provide in-house activities to residents.

Staff has been trained on early recognition of respiratory symptoms as well as on infection control measures. Infection control processes in the facility are being closely monitored.

Atwood Personal Care Home

All locations of Atwood Personal Care Homes are now on complete lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“We are moving all three of our locations to full lock down. We are not allowing any visitors at this time. And we are not allowing any residents to leave unless it’s an emergency or to seek medical care," said Katelin Atwood-Adams. "We are only allowing home health and hospice workers into our facilities who are non-symptomatic and have no fever. We are checking and documenting all temps of our employees as they arrive for their shifts."

Mississippi State Veterans Home

All four Mississippi State Veterans Homes have implemented a no-visitor policy to comply with CDC, VA, Mississippi Department of Health and state requirements established by Gov. Tate Reeves in response to the COVID-19 respiratory disease.

The decision is aimed at preventing and limiting the spread of the COVID-19 virus within the most vulnerable veteran population, adults over 65 with chronic medical conditions.

Executive Director Stacey Pickering said that protocols began early last week to prevent the virus from entering the facilities.

“Last week we began limiting access to our Veterans from the public, and also we began updating staff on the latest information concerning COVID-19 response,” Pickering said.

Pickering also said that screening for all admissions to the facilities, postponing outside activities, monitoring residents for early signs and symptoms and more rigorous use of personal protective equipment was implemented last week.

There were no positive cases of COVID-19 at any of the four Mississippi State Veterans Homes the time of publication.

Autumn Ridge Dental

The following is the procedure for dental patients arriving at the clinic.

Call 662-289-7076 to check in.

Your temperature will be checked at the door (If running higher than 99.5 we will have to reschedule your appointment).

After checking in, you will be asked to return to your vehicle.

Please stay in your vehicle until you are called to be treated.

If needed, we will give you paperwork to update while in your vehicle.

Only the patient will be allowed inside (If a child, 1 adult may come in).

Fast Pace Urgent Care

Patients who think they may have symptoms of COVID-19 may pull up, stay in car and call. Caregivers will come out to assess the patient. Those who have appropriate symptoms will be allowed in and tested.

Thomas Vision

In compliance with the CDC recommendations and guidelines, Thomas Vision will be postponing all routine eye care visits. If you have an urgent need or eye emergency, however, call the office at 662.289.1067.

Curbside pick-up of contacts and glasses will continue during regular business hours. Please call when you arrive, and staff will bring your items out to you.

Routt Eye Clinic

Patients who need routine eye care are asked to delay visits until the COVID-19 crisis is over. Patients who have respiratory ailments are also asked to postpone visits; however, there is a separate waiting room for those patients if their needs are immediate. The practice is continuing to disinfect and sterilize equipment and will see patients with immediate medical eye problems during normal 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. business hours and after hours if it is an emergency.

Government

City of Kosciusko

The city has begun working with a limited crew each day with one man per truck, and city hall manned by alternating staff. Citizens are encouraged to avoid visiting city hall, instead calling the offices to discuss any needs.

The city is suspending the work program for inmates to avoid having groups requiring shared van travel.

City employees who are not designated to work on a given day are expected to remain at home — they are not to be out in the community — and may be called in to work on short notice should the need arise.

All city parks are closed to organized events and practices, with all playground and exercise equipment taped off.

Dixie Youth baseball and softball programs are suspended, but not canceled.

The walking tracks will remain open, but it is recommended to continue to follow the social distancing guidelines of remaining six feet away from other people.

Kosciusko Police Department

The KPD is asking residents to handle things over the phone if at all possible.

Those who call dispatch are asked to meet the officer outside if possible.

City court is limiting the number of people in the courtroom to 10 at any one time, allowing only those who actually have court cases in the courtroom. No extended family or friends are allowed and others who have pending cases will wait outside courtroom until allowed in.

Kosciusko Fire Department

Response policies have been changed. Department is responding to fire and rescue calls only. Med calls are handled by ambulance.

Sheriff’s Department

The Attala County Sheriff’s Department is working to limit exposure to the virus by

• More hand washing and using hand sanitizers.

• Wiping down counters and using disinfectant more frequently.

• Keeping social distance when possible.

Attala County Board of Supervisors

The Attala County Board of Supervisors is wiping down surfaces and cleaning several times a day, including door knobs and limiting the number of people in government offices at any one time.

County workers must practice hand washing and wipe down shared equipment. All nonessential travel is suspended.

Attala County Fire Department

Attala County Fire Department members will wear masks and gloves to any scene to which they are called. They will wash/sanitize hands upon returning from scene.

The Town of Ethel

The Town of Ethel has closed the pavilion and playground. City Hall will receive water payments through the drop box only and the offices will remain closed until further notice. If there are questions or concerns, contact Mayor Gwen Sims at 662-792-6860.

Utilities

Kosciusko Water & Light

The lobby of Kosciusko Water & Light is closed to the public at this time, and is asking customers to stay home and pay online or use the drop box. Employees are asked to use hand sanitizer/keep hands washed and the counters in the lobby and door knobs are regularly wiped down.

Atmos Energy

Among employees, Atmos is taking the following actions in accordance with CDC recommendations to provide a safe and healthy workplace for all:

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick. 

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. 

• Stay home when sick. 

• Cover coughing or sneezing with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. 

• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe. 

• Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. 

• If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.  

Central Electric Power Association

The lobby is closed to walk-in traffic. Customers are encouraged to use drive-thru or make payments by phone or online.

Schools

By order of Governor Tate Reeves, public schools in the state will remain closed through at least Apr. 17. All state testing has been suspended.

Attala County School District

At this time, students will not report to school until Apr. 20. As the district continues to receive information on this developing situation, it will alert families if any adjustment needs to be made to that timeframe. This situation remains fluid, and it asks for patience as it responds to circumstances that are ever-changing. Please look for more communication from your school principal on the topic of e-learning and take-home materials for students in the coming days.

The district hopes that during this time of school closure, students and families will follow the advice of the Mississippi Department of Health to assist in stopping the spread of the virus. That guidance includes social distancing and avoiding gatherings of larger than 10 people. This coronavirus pandemic is unprecedented in our lifetime, and the district strives to make the best decisions in the best interest of students.

ACSD has suspended the meal feeding program due to increasing concerns of COVID-19.

Kosciusko School District

All Kosciusko schools will be closed during this time as it does everything possible to help prevent the spread of this virus. The district has suspended serving meals to children under age 18 due to concerns about spreading the coronavirus.

“We have consulted with local health officials and believe this is the best way to help prevent the spread of this disease. This is also in line with our strict guidelines from the CDC and Mississippi Department of Health when we have confirmed cases in our community,” Superintendent Billy Ellzey said in a letter to parents. “We will work to continue our support of the children in our community in all ways that are safe and possible at this time. Thank you for your understanding as we do all we can to keep everyone safe and healthy during this difficult time.”

Parents should check with individual schools for online assignments. Please monitor the district social media sites and school website for updates about learning opportunities. 

Kosciusko-Attala Career Tech Center

The Kosciusko-Attala Career Tech Center is working toward transitioning to distance learning for all CTC students. Student class assignments can be accessed several ways: student email, google drive (for classes that use this in class), Remind101 and printed packets. Printed packets may be picked up at the CTC and are located next to the office door.

Services

Natchez Trace Parkway

All visitor contact stations are closed; all other facilities remain open. Contact stations will have a supply of maps and other information that are readily accessible to the public. Visitors can still reach a park ranger between 9 am to 4:30 pm by calling 662-680-4027 or by messaging them on Facebook.

Mid-Mississippi Regional Library

Based on recommendations from local and federal leaders, all Mid-Mississippi Regional Library branches closed on Mar. 17 and will remain closed until further notice. Any items that patrons currently have checked out with a due date of Mar. 9 or after will now automatically have a due date of May 4.

Waste Management

It has closed offices to the public. Pick up will continue as scheduled. Payments can be made online, by mail or through the call center.

Mississippi and Federal Internal Revenue

The Internal Revenue Service has extended the deadline for filing taxes to July 15.

The Mississippi Revenue Service has extended the deadline for filing taxes to May 15.

Business and banking

Kosciusko Attala Partnership

The KAP will see customers by appointment only and will be doing extra cleaning while trying to find out information about area businesses who are changing hours, keeping social distance, hand washing/sanitizing.

Small businesses who have experienced a downturn in business can contact Darren Milner at the KAP office. He has a worksheet from the Small Business Administration that can be filled out and sent in. The governor has requested that the state be determined an economic disaster, and the SBA may be able to assist. The worksheet is due to MEMA the first of April.

Picking 35 has been postponed until the first weekend in June and the Natchez Trace Festival is being rescheduled for Sept. 18-19.

Renasant Bank

To ensure the safety and well-being of all, Renasant will temporarily transition branch operations to drive-thru only. The bank has enhanced services available through the drive-thru that you would normally conduct inside a Renasant location and remain available for other services by appointment. Locations without drive-thru capabilities will also be by appointment only.

Citizens National Bank

All system-wide branch lobbies are temporarily closed to the public until further notice. If you need to visit with your Personal Banker, Relationship Banker, Mortgage Originator or others, or access a safe deposit box, you may call 601-693-1331 to make an appointment. The drive-thru is still open to provide service and mobile and online banking services remain available.

Citizens Bank

The drive-thru is open. The lobby is closed except by appointment only and then only one person at a time will be allowed in.