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Mississippi Coronavirus Update March 23, 2020

Dear Friend,

I want to make sure you have access to the latest and most accurate news on the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). As a Member of the Committee on Homeland Security and the Foreign Affairs Committee, I am engaged on this issue and am interacting with experts on the spread of the virus and its potential to impact our state and our nation. If you would like further advice on how to prepare, please visit www.coranavirus.gov for the most up-to-date information. Forward this email to your friends, family, and coworkers and encourage them to SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER.

These difficult times are bringing out the best in many Mississippians. Every day, I hear stories of individuals lending a helping hand to their neighbors. Together with firm resolve and generous spirits, we can face these trying times and overcome the hardships we face as a nation. Unfortunately, I have learned of bad actors who do not care for our shared values and who are attempting to profit off the emergency our country is currently facing. Below are some quick tips from Attorney General Lynn Fitch on identifying potential scams:

  1. DO NOT open any suspicious emails or texts. They may contain a dangerous electronic virus that can steal your personal information.
  2. Before you donate to any charity, do your research. Be sure that it is a reputable company or organization and never feel pressured to pay via cash. Websites like BBB Wise Giving Alliance and Charity Navigator provide guidance and feedback on legitimate charities.
  3. Scammers may call you directly or even set up a robocall, offering an instant cure for the Coronavirus. Hang up the phone immediately. If you press any buttons, scammers may have the ability to set you up for even more robocalls. To be added to the National Do Not Call Registry, click here.
  4. Social Security numbers are a valuable form of personal identity. If you receive an unsolicited phone call regarding your personal information, hang up and report it at the Social Security Administration's Office of the Inspector General or call (800) 269-0271.

Current Statistics

As of Monday, March 23, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 33,404 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the United States, 400 individuals have passed away as a result of infection, and 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have at least one case. As of Monday morning, 249 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Mississippi and one Mississippian passed away as a result of infection. 1,392 individuals have been tested for COVID-19 in our state.

Mississippi Resources

On Friday, in partnership with C Spire, the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) announced a statewide telehealth COVID-19 response app that is free to all Mississippians. UMMC has made mobile field screening and testing available at the Mississippi Fairgrounds for those showing symptoms of COVID-19 from an initial screening provided through the app. You can connect with screeners by using the app seven days a week from 8:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m. Those individuals found to be at high risk for infection will receive a next-day appointment between 9:00a.m. and 5:00p.m. for drive through testing at the Mississippi Fairgrounds. During the appointment, individuals will remain in their vehicles and their noses will be swabbed to test for the coronavirus. UMMC will notify patients of the results through their smartphones and give further instructions. Those without a smartphone who are showing symptoms can call (601) 496-7200 to set up an appointment. Finally, it is important that those individuals not showing symptoms refrain from using the app. CLICK HERE to download the app on your smartphone.

For those located outside of the Jackson metro area, there are many testing sites across the state to assess your condition. The Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) has released the locations of these testing sites. To find one near you, CLICK HERE

MSDH is coordinating the COVID-19 response effort in Mississippi. You can find more about community preparedness and overseas travel by visiting the MSDH website, or you can call the Mississippi Coronavirus Hotline 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Friday by dialing 877-978-6453.

If you are looking for accessible, free Wi-Fi, you can find locations of libraries, colleges, and universities offering parking-lot internet access by CLICKING HERE. At these locations, you can remain in your vehicle and access online applications.

Government Actions

Last night, the Senate failed to pass the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act by a 47-47 vote. The legislation was blocked by Senate Democrats, who pushed for unrelated and partisan proposals to be included in the relief provision, including:

Additional collective bargaining powers for unions
More fuel emission standards for airlines
Expansion of wind and solar tax credits

Democrats blocked the bill for a second time today. Democrats are using the legislation that would provide critical funds needed to combat the coronavirus as a vehicle to pass their own political agenda. The bill that has now been blocked by Democrats twice would provide:

Direct financial help for the American people
Rapid relief for small businesses and their employees
Significant steps to stabilize our economy and protect jobs
Support healthcare professionals and the patients who are fighting the coronavirus

This is no time for political posturing

This morning, the Federal Reserve announced that it would purchase enough bonds to keep markets healthy and the economy stable. The announcement indicates that the Federal Reserve is willing to purchase more than its previous commitment of $700 billion in bonds. Furthermore, to keep credit flowing to consumers and businesses, the Federal Reserve announced additional programs to provide more than $300 billion in new financing. The Federal Reserve also plans to announce the establishment of a Main Street Business Lending Program to supplement the Small Business Administration's efforts to bolster small- and medium-sized businesses. For more information, you can read the Federal Reserve's press release.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) is offering Economic Injury Disaster Loans targeting small businesses adversely affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Governor Tate Reeves requested that Mississippi small businesses and nonprofits be eligible for this support, and SBA approved the entire state to be able to participate in the program. These low-interest loans are intended to help reduce the economic impact the coronavirus outbreak has had on small businesses as they begin feeling the brunt of the slowing economy. For more resources on coronavirus small business loans, visit the SBA website or review the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency’s information on how to apply in Mississippi.

Last week, President Trump announced that the federal tax filing deadline has been postponed to July 15th. Today, the Mississippi Department of Revenue announced it would extend the deadline for filing and paying state income taxes to May 15th. It is still important to file your taxes early if you can do so. If you are eligible for a refund, the sooner you file, the sooner you will receive your refund.

President Trump also announced that his administration will suspend interest on federal student loans and give borrowers the option to suspend payments for at least 60 days. All federal student borrowers will automatically have the interest on their loans set at zero for at least 60 days. Any payments during this time will be used to pay off the principle of the loan, and the suspended interest rate will begin retroactively, effective March 13th. For more information and to request the 60-day relief please, contact your loan servicer.

As we continue to combat this crisis, some businesses may be forced to reduce the number of individuals they employ. If you or someone you know becomes unemployed, you might be eligible to file for an unemployment claim. Please contact the Mississippi Department of Employment Security at 601-321-6000 for assistance.

Travel Advisories

It is now the recommendation of the Department of State that Americans avoid discretionary travel. Below, you can find additional links to additional Department of State resources:

General COVID-19 Information for Travelers
COVID-19 Country Specific Information
Global Level 4 Travel Advisory - Avoid Travel
Enroll in Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)
What State Department Can and Cannot Do in a Crisis

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), travelers returning from countries with widespread, sustained transmission of COVID-19 (Level 3 Travel Health Notice) will be asked to stay home for a period of 14 days to monitor health and practice social distancing. CDC recommends travelers take their temperature twice a day and monitor symptoms. Please see below for additional resources from the CDC:

Guidance for Travelers Returning from High Risk Countries
Countries with a Level 3 Travel Health Notice
FAQs for International Travelers
Map of Travel Health Notices for Each Country

On March 11th, President Trump suspended entry into the United States of non-U.S. citizens who were physically present in the Schengen Area during the 14-day period prior to their entry or attempted entry. The Trump Administration announced it was extending this travel ban to include the United Kingdom and Ireland, effective midnight Eastern Daylight Time on Monday, March 16th. The restrictions do not apply to U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. American citizens, legal permanent residents, and their immediate families who are returning home after recently visiting Europe, China, and Iran will now be required to travel through one of the following 13 airports:

Boston-Logan International Airport (BOS), Massachusetts
Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Illinois
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), Texas
Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW), Michigan
Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL), Hawaii
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), Georgia
John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), New York
Los Angeles International Airport, (LAX), California
Miami International Airport (MIA), Florida
Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), New Jersey
San Francisco International Airport (SFO), California
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), Washington
Washington-Dulles International Airport (IAD), Virginia

Upon arrival, travelers will proceed to standard customs processing. They will then continue to enhanced entry screening where passengers will be asked about their medical history, current condition, and asked for contact information for local health authorities. Passengers will then be given written guidance about COVID-19 and directed to proceed to their final destination, and immediately home-quarantined in accordance with CDC best practices.

U.S. citizens who wish to return to the United States from Europe should make plans using commercial travel options, which remain readily available.

Capitol and White House Tour Cancellations

Out of an abundance of caution due to coronavirus in the DC metro area, all U.S. Capitol tours have been suspended effective 3/12/2020 through 4/1/2020 or until further notice. Additionally, the House and Senate Sergeants at Arms have ordered limited access to the U.S. Capitol complex and House Office Buildings. These buildings will only be open for official business visitors.

White House tours have also been suspended until further notice.

Many other tourist sites in Washington, DC, are closed. I encourage you to call before visiting.

Sincerely,

 

Michael Guest
Member of Congress



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