Jackson Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Errick L. Greene announced that JPS students would receive only virtual instruction in the fall semester, citing concerns over the spread of COVID-19 into the classrooms and back to Jackson’s families. Photo courtesy Jackson Public Schools
Jackson Public Schools will have an entirely virtual fall semester, finishing 2020 isolated as coronavirus rages around the state. In a Zoom call to educators and parents held Friday evening, JPS Superintendent Dr. Errick L. Greene said the district was following the data, which have shown unprecedented spread of COVID-19 in the weeks leading up to the beginning of the fall semester.
“We know that we’ve got to work with individuals to understand their situation,” Greene said, promising assistance to parents who needed help connecting virtually under the new system. Greene expects most teachers to work from their districts, although he acknowledged solutions would be necessary for immunocompromised teachers, and those with specific childcare requirements.
“I am very concerned about the families that are not connected, and not prepared to engage in the ways that this new model will provide for,” he said.
Greene asked communities of faith and other organizations around the capital city to help “ensure that not one of those babies is without someone who can look in on them.”
JPS’ decisive step follows Madison County School District’s delay of the start of the school year to September. The virtual school year for JPS students will begin Aug. 12.
Bar Restrictions Incoming
Mississippi’s bars will operate under additional restrictions, as the dangerous spike in COVID-19 cases continues into the end of July. Gov. Tate Reeves announced an executive order for the state’s bars today at his regular coronavirus press conference.
Moving forward, bars must cease serving alcohol at 11 p.m., and may only serve seated customers. These statewide restrictions, joining others mandating no more than six to a table and six feet of separation between groups of patrons, are intended to make Mississippi’s bars “look more restaurants and less like mobs of COVID-19 spread,” Reeves said today.
The late-night restrictions are intended to help with rampant spread of the virus among 20- to 29-year-olds, a key demographic in transmission to more vulnerable adults. Late-night drinking is “when these crowds throw social distancing out the window,” Reeves said.
Mask Mandates in Six More Counties
The order goes further, adding six counties to the previously established list of mask mandate counties displaying especially virulent spread of COVID-19. Calhoun, Holmes, Lamar, Montgomery, Winston and Yalobusha counties will now require residents to wear masks in public spaces.
Furthermore, the social-distancing limitations previously reserved for red-zone counties will now be extended statewide. Gatherings of more than 10 people indoors and 20 or more people outdoors are now banned across Mississippi for the duration of the executive order. Exceptions are facilities with specific restrictions, including restaurants and bars, which are instead limited to 50% capacity. Churches are also exempt from the 10-person restriction.
The Mississippi State Department of Health announced 1,610 new cases of COVID-19 today, in line with the staggering growth of the virus over the latter half of July. Hospitalizations climbed from 950 to 975 confirmed cases, and ICU utilization dipped slightly, from 293 to 279.
MSDH also reported the largest single-day jump in ventilator use, from 140 to 163. Seventeen Mississippians lost their lives from complications due to coronavirus yesterday. Eleven COVID-19 fatalities were discovered from previous deaths.
Read the JFP’s coverage of COVID-19 at jacksonfreepress.com/covid19. Get more details on preventive measures here. Email state reporter Nick Judin at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @nickjudin.