Some Mississippi casinos reopen after 2-month virus hiatus


Emily Wagster Pettus/The Associated Press



JACKSON -- Some casinos in Mississippi reopened Thursday for the first time in two months, following state guidelines to try to mitigate the spread of the new coronavirus.


At least three dozen people stood in line waiting to get into WaterView Casino in Vicksburg as it opened. A manager came outside to do a countdown until opening. Customers were allowed to enter one at a time. They were screened for COVID-19 symptoms and were offered masks, although many already had their own.


Notes were attached to video games and slot machines, reminding customers and staff to sanitize the machines before each use. Stickers placed on the floor to tell people to remain at least 6 feet apart.



Plastic shields have been installed around cashiers' stations. The state Gaming Commission limits the numbers of players for blackjack and other table games. Casinos are required to set up hand sanitizing stations.


Like other parts of the U.S., Mississippi continues to see high numbers of claims for unemployment benefits. U.S. Employment and Training Administration said Thursday that Mississippi has processed just over 269,000 claims between March 14 and May 16. The report said 208,270 people in Mississippi were receiving unemployment benefits as of May 9. Republican Gov. Tate Reeves has said the state normally had about 1,000 unemployment claims per week before the pandemic.


Reeves said Thursday that he will ask legislators to spend part of Mississippi's federal coronavirus relief money on workforce training programs that emphasize technology jobs.


"We want to direct Mississippians of all ages towards the career pathways that are demanded by the economy and provide the best paying opportunities," Reeves said.


He said his goal is to ensure that people now making $10 or $12 an hour could train for other jobs that pay up to $20 an hour.


The state Health Department said Thursday that Mississippi -- with a population of about 3 million -- had at least 12,222 confirmed cases and 580 deaths from the coronavirus as of Wednesday evening. That was an increase of 255 cases and 10 deaths from the numbers reported a day earlier.


The number of coronavirus infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick. For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause severe symptoms and be fatal.


The Health Department said Thursday that at least 125,970 coronavirus tests had been conducted in Mississippi as of Wednesday. The state health officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, said 4,055 of those were blood tests that detect whether a person has antibodies that usually show up after an infection is resolved.


The department said at least 1,590 cases of the virus have been confirmed in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes, with at least 289 virus-related deaths in those facilities.





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