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COVID-19 Hits New Mississippi Highs, Municipalities Issuing Own Mask Orders

On Monday, Mississippi’s rolling average of COVID-19 cases hit 611, a new peak that reflects the dire warnings from the state’s top health officials. On Tuesday, that number rose to 620. Photo courtesy MSDH

On Monday, Mississippi’s rolling average of COVID-19 cases hit 611, a new peak that reflects the dire warnings from the state’s top health officials. On Tuesday, that number rose to 620. Photo courtesy MSDH

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Photo courtesy MSDH

Mississippi’s rising coronavirus curve is prompting dire warnings from state health officials—and some municipalities are beginning to issue mask orders to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in public spaces. This morning, the Mississippi State Department of Health announced 680 new cases of coronavirus statewide, with 14 new deaths. Hospitalizations peaked yet again, with 560 confirmed patients with COVID-19 in the Mississippi’s hospitals, alongside a slight uptick in ICU usage.

As the new week began, the MSDH reported 675 new cases of COVID-19, with 20 deaths—18 of which are from earlier reports. Sunday’s report indicated 361 new cases of COVID-19 with four fatalities. As of Monday the state had 87 long-term-care facility outbreaks, which indicate one or more cases among staff or residents per facility. The total number of state cases is now 27,247. So far, 1,073 Mississippians have lost their lives to COVID-19.

Monday’s numbers brought the rolling average up to 611, a peak that reflects State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs’ increasingly grim warnings about the future of COVID-19 in Mississippi, including concerns about full ICUs in some parts of the state. Tuesday’s numbers pushed that average up to 621.

“Why are the numbers climbing in June in MS?” Dobbs tweeted on June 28. “We are spreading it more, not testing more.” Hospitalizations remain steady after last week’s spike, remaining at the highest levels yet since the beginning of the crisis.

No Press Briefings as COVID-19 Rises Steadily

The case average has continued to rise as Gov. Tate Reeves has suspended his daily press briefings. On June 25, Reeves explained on Twitter that the daily briefings had paused due to a backlog of bills from the Legislature requiring his signature. “We haven’t been able to have a briefing this week because I have to review and then sign or veto 146 bills from the legislature—only five days to do so! Massive effort that we have to get right,” Reeves tweeted.

The governor indicated that the briefings would resume shortly. Today, at 5 p.m., he is signing the legislation to change the Mississippi flag.

COVID-19 Information Mississippians Need

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Previously, Dobbs warned that the state’s health-care system may not be positioned to provide care to patients if the state does not control its outbreaks. “Prepare for not being able to get into the hospital if you have a car wreck, (to) have a heart attack and there not be a ventilator to put you on,” he said in an interview with the Jackson Free Press on June 23.

Days later, Dobbs revised his estimates forward, after a devastating report of 1,092 new detections of the virus in a single day. At a press conference on June 25, Dobbs warned that the state’s hospitals could be overwhelmed in a matter of weeks. The state health officer pleaded with local political and civil leadership to encourage the use of safety precautions like mask usage and social distancing.

Masks Orders Appearing Statewide

However, state-level leadership has repeatedly declined to issue mask orders, which Dobbs explained as a lack of “buy-in” from local leadership. Without the willing participation of municipalities and communities, such top-down restrictions have little chance of working, the state health officer argued.

In response, municipalities around the state have issued mask orders to curb the spread of the virus, showing their willingness from throughout the COVID-19 to embrace safety regulations that are more stringent than the governor’s, when they legally could. Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton’s executive order, which went into effect Monday, requires masks while in indoor public businesses and buildings.

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba announced this week that he is issuing an executive mask order for the capital city, with a press conference scheduled for today at 1 p.m. The order will authorize Jackson police officers to issue citations for those refusing to wear masks in public.

“It has been our goal not to criminalize this matter, and our police department will be doing this in the most humane and effective way,” Lumumba said at a Monday press conference.

Read the JFP’s coverage of COVID-19 at jacksonfreepress.com/covid19. Get more details on preventive measures here. Email state reporter Nick Judin at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @nickjudin.

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