Gov. Tate Reeves took the extraordinary step Thursday of closing all of Mississippi's public schools for the next month to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
Reeves said in a video streamed on social media at 10 a.m. that he would soon be signing an executive order mandating shutting down public schools until April 17.
The Republican called it "perhaps the hardest decision I've ever had to make" in nearly 17 years of holding elected office, saying he knows it will create difficulties for Mississippi families and that more learning is likely to get accomplished when students are in classrooms.
But he said he believes the choice is in the best interest of all Mississippians.
"We are all in this together, and we've got to work together to make sure we mitigate and minimize the damage from COVID-19," Reeves said.
No cases of coronavirus have been identified in Marion County, although Mississippi has 50 confirmed cases as of Thursday.
The governor promised all school staff would continue to get paid their full salaries in a timely manner and said testing requirements would be waived.
Reeves also said one of Mississippi's biggest challenges, not unlike other states, is a run on hospitals.
"If you do not need to get medical help, seriously need to get medical help, please stay away from our hospitals," he said, noting that all need to make sacrifices for the good of fellow Mississippians.
Reeves, who is in quarantine with his family after a recent trip to Spain, said the most important thing he can do is provide information to citizens and that he would continue to do more Q&A sessions of Facebook Live and other announcements.