Lafayette County announces its first confirmed case of COVID-19

Published 11:44 am Thursday, March 19, 2020

After being in the clear for several days, Lafayette County has announced its first confirmed presumptive case of COVID-19 on Thursday.

In a video posted to her Facebook page, Mayor Robyn Tannehill announced the confirmed case, which was confirmed by Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi and the Mississippi State Department of Health.

“While this is the first time we can confirm the coronavirus in our community, we’ve known this day is coming and we’ve prepared for weeks,” Tannehill said. “The safety and wellbeing of every citizen in Lafayette County must remain our top priority, and we all share in finding ways to keep this virus from spreading, which include social distancing. My concern is many people are still saying, ‘Oh, this is no big deal.’ This is a critical deal.”

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The EAGLE contacted MSDH to get more information regarding the case and where the person may have gone before receiving the positive test result. According to Liz Sharlot, Communications Director for MSDH, the case was confirmed this morning, after MSDH updated their website tracker for the day.

“I can tell you that this morning, we did confirm a case in Lafayette County,” Sharlot told the EAGLE. “I have absolutely no information on the case in Panola County.”

Sharlot did not reveal any demographic information for the person diagnosed in Lafayette County, but did say that, as with all cases of any communicable illness (from COVID-19 to HIV) that MSDH had made contact with the patient and identified people they had been in contact with prior to receiving a positive result.

“The reason we do that is to prevent the spread (of the disease),” Sharlot said.

Sharlot also mentioned that, while demographic information has been removed from the MSDH COVID-19 webpage, the state is working to implement that feature on the site once again.

Tannehill was joined by Dr. Jason Waller of Baptist Hospital and and Dr. Jeff Dennis in the video. The pair provided thoughts on the severity of having a confirmed case in Lafayette County. Waller had told Tannehill earlier this week that, despite the lack of a confirmed case in Lafayette County, he felt COVID-19 “is here.”

“We have suspected for several days now that cases are in our community, and now we have confirmation of the first case,” Waller said. “This is not the time for panic, but for us to be calm and diligent in our practices, especially social distancing. Rigorous hygiene, hand washing and we need to get that message out to the community and we need everyone to do their part.”

Earlier on Thursday, the Department of Health announced 16 new cases in Mississippi, bringing the total to 50. At that time, Lafayette County was not on the list of counties with confirmed cases, but Tannehill made the official announcement about 90 minutes later.

“The really important part is the challenge of being responsible,” Dennis said. “The young people out there and the older people we know are the ones who are going to be the most effected by the disease, but it does have a pretty broad range as well. The young people have a critical role. They might not have any symptoms, but they could be carrying it from household-to-household. This could be the most important role you have in this community in your life as far as a citizen in this town. … Riding in cars with other kids or going to other people’s houses is not okay right now. It’s just not.”

The Mississippi State Board of Education approved Governor Tate Reeves mandate to keep all public schools closed through April 17 to help limit the spread of COVID-19. The Board also waived all state and federal testing for the 2019-20 school year.

You can watch the full video below: