Wednesday, October 7, 2020
Only a week after Gov. Tate Reeves lifted the state’s mask mandate, Mississippi’s coronavirus numbers have reversed course, showing the first consistent signs of a new surge in what would be the third spike in the pandemic in the Magnolia State. The Mississippi State Department of Health announced 975 new cases of COVID-19 late last night, the highest single-day total since Aug. 19.
State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs struck an ominous tone Wednesday morning, expressing his fears that the jump in reporting signalled dangerous trends. “Big day. Some of that attributable to delayed reporting, but... Increasing hospitalizations. Over 300 new K12 students cases and > 6k K12 kids under quarantine. Our equilibrium is unravelling. We know what it takes if we will just do it,” Dobbs tweeted.
Last week’s reports of COVID-19 from the state’s schools were the most concerning yet, with 366 coronavirus-positive students and 6,864 students in quarantine as a result of exposures. Repeatedly, state health leadership has warned that these numbers will worsen if the rate of community spread increases.
Hospitalizations, which continued their downward slide through the weekend, show signs of a rebound, jumping from 393 to 455 since Sunday.
The Mississippi State Fair opened its gates today, with Commissioner of Agriculture Andy Gipson releasing a Tuesday statement that confirmed mask wearing would be a matter of “personal preference” at the state fair, which will limit attendance to 21,000 people at a time.
Gipson’s statement directly contradicts both Gov. Reeves and Dr. Dobbs. Last Wednesday, shortly after announcing an end to the statewide mask mandate, Reeves assured the press that he had reviewed the plans for the state fair and that "my understanding is that their plan requires individuals to wear masks at all times. ... My understanding is also that they're not going to let you in the fair without a mask."
Dr. Dobbs agreed, lauding the State Fair Commission for its dedication to public health and safety. "I am aware that their safety protocols include masking at this event, and I'm supportive of that."
Mississippians looking to protect themselves and others should avoid large gatherings, wear masks in public at all times and get a flu shot as soon as possible, three measures that all medical professionals and public-health experts contacted by the Jackson Free Press agree will protect the integrity of the hospital system.
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.