Community prayer service held outside hospital as more succumb to COVID

Published 2:19 pm Monday, August 23, 2021

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NATCHEZ — People in the Miss-Lou are dying with COVID-19 more quickly than ever before, Adams County Coroner James Lee said. Lee said a 66-year-old woman from Adams County died with COVID-19 complications on Sunday.

“We have now had 18 COVID deaths the month of August,” he said. “This is a rapid pace disaster in my opinion.”

A group approximately 30 of Natchez officials and individuals who gathered under a tent outside of Merit Health Natchez Saturday helped fight the battle against COVID-19 using a two-edged sword.

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One edge of the sword was encouraging others to get vaccinated.

“Don’t let your last breath be spent saying to loved ones, ‘I wish I had gotten the vaccine,’” Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson said at Saturday’s gathering.

“We don’t know all of the side effects of the vaccine, but we know what the side effects of COVID are. You could die from it.”

The other edge of the sword was prayer.

On Saturday, area pastors and officials led the group in a special prayer for victims of COVID-19 and of recent violent crimes in the community in a prayer service organized by Natchez resident Christina Purnell, who recently recovered from COVID herself.

Purnell said she had been inspired by what she witnessed at the hospital while being treated for COVID. Law enforcement officers were there while tired medical personnel prioritized treating a gunshot victim when the hospital was full of very sick people, she said.

Natchez Police Chief Joseph Daughtry and Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten also each led a prayer for first responders and law enforcement.

Daughtry said with a pained face that he too had lost 57 people that he knew personally to COVID-19, including a friend of his who died one day earlier.

“It has been hard,” he said. “We’ve dealt with crime, homicides and rape, but dealing with a pandemic, you can’t see it. You sometimes don’t even know you’ve got it. It has been hard. But I believe in prayer. Please, don’t stop praying for us. … I can’t tell you how we’re going to get through this, but I can tell you who is going to get us through it. Jesus himself.”

Merit Health Natchez posted a statement of gratitude on the hospital’s social media page later Saturday for those who came out to pray at the hospital.

“Christina Purnell, a COVID-19 survivor, was inspired by the unwavering commitment, courage and skills of the first responders and healthcare professionals she encountered during her illness. Today, she hosted a prayer service at our hospital where local ministers, elected officials, sheriff and police department officers and other community members prayed for our hospital personnel and first responders. We are so thankful to live and work in this community! We truly feel your love and support,” the post states.