A message at the scene that said, in part, “Bet you stay home now,” has led the police in Mississippi to suspect arson.
By Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs
May 22, 2020, 1:58 a.m. ET
The burning of a church in northern Mississippi this week is being investigated as arson because of a spray-painted message at the scene that seemed to criticize the church’s defiance of coronavirus restrictions.
First Pentecostal Church had sued the city of Holly Springs, Miss., which is about an hour southeast of Memphis, arguing that its stay-at-home order had violated the church’s right to free speech and interfered with its members’ ability to worship.
After firefighters put out the blaze early Wednesday, the police found a message, “Bet you stay home now you hypokrits,” spray-painted on the ground near the church’s doors, according to Maj. Kelly McMillen of the Marshall County Sheriff’s Department.
A photograph of the graffiti also appears to show an atomic symbol with an “A” in the center, which is sometimes used as a logo for atheist groups.
Gov. Tate Reeves of Mississippi said on Twitter that he was “heartbroken and furious” about the fire.
Major McMillen said the police had found a can of white spray paint and a flashlight at the scene. He said that no suspects had been identified, but that investigators, including from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and potentially the F.B.I., would be going through the scene on Friday.
“We’ll probably be there till dark tomorrow night because we’re going to have to go through each and every piece of it,” he said.
After growing frustration with the city’s executive orders, the first of which was issued on March 23, the church’s pastor, Jerry Waldrop, confronted city officials at a demonstration at a local Walmart. The church also filed a lawsuit against the city in April.
A lawyer for the church said in the lawsuit that the police had cited Mr. Waldrop on Easter for holding a service in violation of the city’s order, and had later shut down a Bible study.
How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?
Over 38 million people have filed for unemployment since March. One in five who were working in February reported losing a job or being furloughed in March or the beginning of April, data from a Federal Reserve survey released on May 14 showed, and that pain was highly concentrated among low earners. Fully 39 percent of former workers living in a household earning $40,000 or less lost work, compared with 13 percent in those making more than $100,000, a Fed official said.
How can I protect myself while flying?
If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)
Is ‘Covid toe’ a symptom of the disease?
There is an uptick in people reporting symptoms of chilblains, which are painful red or purple lesions that typically appear in the winter on fingers or toes. The lesions are emerging as yet another symptom of infection with the new coronavirus. Chilblains are caused by inflammation in small blood vessels in reaction to cold or damp conditions, but they are usually common in the coldest winter months. Federal health officials do not include toe lesions in the list of coronavirus symptoms, but some dermatologists are pushing for a change, saying so-called Covid toe should be sufficient grounds for testing.
Can I go to the park?
Yes, but make sure you keep six feet of distance between you and people who don’t live in your home. Even if you just hang out in a park, rather than go for a jog or a walk, getting some fresh air, and hopefully sunshine, is a good idea.
How do I take my temperature?
Taking one’s temperature to look for signs of fever is not as easy as it sounds, as “normal” temperature numbers can vary, but generally, keep an eye out for a temperature of 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. If you don’t have a thermometer (they can be pricey these days), there are other ways to figure out if you have a fever, or are at risk of Covid-19 complications.
Should I wear a mask?
The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.
What should I do if I feel sick?
If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.
How do I get tested?
If you’re sick and you think you’ve been exposed to the new coronavirus, the C.D.C. recommends that you call your healthcare provider and explain your symptoms and fears. They will decide if you need to be tested. Keep in mind that there’s a chance — because of a lack of testing kits or because you’re asymptomatic, for instance — you won’t be able to get tested.
How can I help?
Charity Navigator, which evaluates charities using a numbers-based system, has a running list of nonprofits working in communities affected by the outbreak. You can give blood through the American Red Cross, and World Central Kitchen has stepped in to distribute meals in major cities.
In a blistering opinion filed last week in response to the lawsuit, Judge Michael P. Mills wrote that he feared that the church was “proceeding in an excessively reckless and cavalier manner and with insufficient respect for the enormity of the health crisis which the Covid-19 pandemic presents.”
The judge declined to block the city’s stay-at-home order, as the church had requested, and noted that the city had, in a subsequent executive order, allowed for drive-in church services.
Arguments over whether religious services can be held in person have become increasingly contentious in recent weeks.
Some churches in Minnesota this week said they would resume services in defiance of the governor’s orders. That followed a federal judge’s ruling in North Carolina that allowed for indoor religious gatherings after the governor said they were largely banned. And five lawyers with the Justice Department said in a letter to California on Tuesday that the state’s restrictions to combat the virus discriminated against religious institutions.
Major McMillen said the fire had shocked Holly Springs, a city of fewer than 8,000 people.
“Hopefully, with the Lord’s help,” he said, “we can get to the bottom of this as quickly as possible.”
Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs reports on national news. He is from upstate New York and previously reported in Baltimore, Albany, and Isla Vista, Calif. @nickatnews