Mississippi News Gov. Nonprofit Tate Reeves declared a state emergency Saturday afternoon amid a pandemic in the world. Reeves spoke in a pre-recorded speech on Saturday that was posted on social media. This is his first statement on the viral epidemic since Mississippi announced its first cases of COVID-19 earlier this week. According to the Mississippi State Department of Health there are six cases of COVID-19 currently in the state. Officials expect these numbers to increase. The governor asked Mississippi churches not to hold large gatherings or services this weekend. He also asked that the state’s public school extend their spring break for at least one week. Reeves stated that “We all must act together to prevent the spread of this virus.” Reeves stated that “We must all act together to stop the unnecessary spread of this virus.” Reeves was on vacation in Spain with his family, which is the European country with the most coronavirus deaths and cases, while health officials were trying to notify the public earlier this week. Normally, announcements about a state of emergency of this scale would be made at an in-person press conference. Reeves stated that he would be working “voluntarily” from home for 14 consecutive days “out of an abundance caution and care for other people.” He said, however, that he does not have any symptoms. Reeves assured his family that everyone is strong and healthy. Reeves said that his family is healthy and strong. He asked Mississippi churches not to meet this weekend. “I am asking churches not hold large, in-person worship services (Sunday). He said that you can worship at home. Reeves stated that he had directed his Cabinet members not to allow state employees to work remotely if it was possible and that he would “temporarily close” certain state offices, including driver’s license bureaus. Reeves did not name any other offices and did not specify how long he would keep the DMVs open. He also stated that he would limit public interaction with prisoners in state prisons or allow them to transfer them. This comes as several lawsuits are pending against the governor and many federal investigators into the treatment of prisoners. Although the governor is authorized to cancel schools, he didn’t do so on Saturday. He said, “I am asking all our schools to extend spring vacation by at least one day.” We know that this can be a burden for working families, and we are working hard at minimizing that struggle. Mississippians care for one another and we will do our best to help you. He didn’t go into detail about how the state was working to reduce struggle and take care people. The law requires schools to be open for 180 days. However, the state board can waive that requirement by allowing them to meet for the full 180 days. On March 19, the board will meet via teleconference for its regularly scheduled meeting. The Institutions of Higher Learning had earlier announced that eight public universities would extend spring break and make all classes available online as an attempt to stop the spread of the virus. The Mississippi Department of Education and the State Board of Education do not have the authority to cancel schools in the K-12 school system. However, the department provided guidance and information to school districts. The 465,913 students in the state attend 140 school districts and five charters schools. MDE maintains a list of school closings. Many districts have extended spring break or cancelled school for a few more days. However, this number will likely change due to the governor’s recent request. These precautions are taken by districts to ensure safety. However, closings can cause problems for students and parents who must make arrangements to allow their children to remain home while they learn. This is especially true in rural areas of the state, where internet access can sometimes be limited and not all families can access a computer. According to the Rural School and Community Trust’s 2018-19 report, nearly 235,000 Mississippi students attend rural schools. This nonprofit provides services to rural communities and schools that help to provide quality education. Clarksdale in Mississippi was the first to cancel Monday classes. This decision came before the declaration of emergency. Amanda Johnson, executive director of Clarksdale Collegiate (a charter school in the town), said that she followed suit to protect students. Johnson stated that while it is one of those situations where I feel it’s right, Johnson was hoping for a mandate from the governor and state health department. Johnson said that her plans would change as the governor requested. She and her staff had been planning for the possibility of school being closed for an unknown period of time. Although she isn’t sure how many students have access to the internet and their devices at home, she will meet with her staff Monday to discuss a strategy. Johnson stated that while digital learning is a possibility for us, it doesn’t cover the entire day or all that we need to do. Each school’s second and third-graders have their own laptops. Staff is working out how to send the laptops home to students who require them. The emphasis will be on third-graders and second-graders, who are preparing to take the big standardized test in the third grade. The school bought 75 hot spots to provide remote access to students at the start of the week, when it became apparent that classes might be interrupted by the coronavirus epidemic. However, she isn’t sure when they will arrive, as other schools may also have purchased in bulk, she explained. Johnson stated that Johnson doesn’t know the outcome of state testing. Johnson stated that this will be the first year that third-graders will take the state exam. “We wanted to make sure they had the opportunity to continue to have these laptops home so they could take them home for lunch. Students will also be sent home with fruit the next morning. Johnson is adamant that the school closing will mean no assemblies, science fairs, or gymnastics competitions. Johnson can understand this but feels frustrated. “I don’t know if this will be for a week or two weeks…It is a pandemic, so we understand it, but it’s also disappointing. It’s a shame that so many things are not possible for children right now.