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Black Mississippians at greater risk of contracting and dying from COVID-19

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(Source: MSDH)

Despite African Americans making up less than 40 percent of Mississippi’s population, black Mississippians represent 56 percent of the state’s known COVID-19 infections and 72 percent of deaths, demographic data released Wednesday from the state health department show.

The data showing the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on black Mississippians mirrors findings in other locations reporting racial demographic data and the disparate effects on African Americans.

The health department states that these rates are based on cases where full information is known and may not include all cases. The new health department demographic information is statewide and not broken down by county. The state does report the overall number of cases for each county, however.

Though the most cases in the state are following population and clustered in Hinds and DeSoto counties as well as the Gulf Coast, rural areas are also impacted. Namely, the counties of Wilkinson (37 cases per 10,000 residents) and Bolivar, Tunica and Tippah (each with 17 cases per 10,000) have been hit hardest by the virus.

Three of those counties have no intensive care unit beds within the county — Bolivar has eight ICU beds. Tunica does not have a hospital at all.

Of the rural counties seeing most per capita cases, most are overwhelmingly black. Tunica and Wilkinson counties have black populations of over 70 percent; Bolivar County is 64 black.

On Tuesday, Mississippi hit the 2,000 case mark; 67 people have died. Using the newly released race data, that’s 1,122 African Americans with known cases, 741 white people and 140 other. Forty-eight African Americans have died and 19 white people have died.

The new data also breaks down deaths by underlying health conditions and race. As of Tuesday, most deaths were among African Americans with heart disease followed closely by African Americans with diabetes and high blood pressure.

In Mississippi, 16 percent of black adults have diabetes compared to 13.5 percent of white adults. African Americans in Mississippi also die from cardiovascular disease at a rate 20 percent more than white folks — 411 per 100,000 black people versus 341 per 100,000 white people, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data compiled by United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings.

Data also show that women are infected and hospitalized with coronavirus at a higher rate in Mississippi, according to information obtained from the state health department. Black women comprise the front lines of the state’s low-wage workforce, including filling most cashier jobs that are at higher risk for exposure than most.

Additionally, there are roughly 64,000 registered nurses, licensed nurses, medical assistants and home health aides across the state; among them, about 35 percent are black women.

Mississippi is also tied for the fourth highest uninsured rate among African Americans, at 16 percent, which experts say can result in disproportionate health outcomes.

Mississippi has also declined to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. During his campaign, now-Gov. Tate Reeves ran on opposing what he calls “Obamacare expansion.”

In a recent interview with Mississippi Today, when asked about Medicaid expansion as a way to combat coronavirus, Reeves said:

“One of the challenges we have in Mississippi, and it’s one of the things that worries me, is we do have a lot of people in our state who are either obese or headed towards obesity, and that’s not a good condition to have if you were to contract the virus. That puts you in a higher risk category because you’re going to have similar challenges breathing, etcetera, if you get one of the horrible cases,” said Reeves, who stated that his position on Medicaid expansion remained unchanged.

“So we’ve got to make sure, and we’re working to do so, that we have access to care for every Mississippian that contracts the virus. We do need to prioritize. We don’t need everyone who’s sneezing to run and get a test.”

Tuesday, state epidemiologist Paul Byers announced that cases and deaths were starting to show a disproportionate impact on the black community, saying it was likely driven by underlying health conditions and “troubling, obviously.”

“We know that there can be higher rates of underlying chronic medical problems among African Americans in Mississippi. This is not news. We’ve seen this before. We know with COVID-19 that it can have a disproportionate impact on those individuals with underlying, chronic medical problems,” Byers said Tuesday.

Other states have slowly begun to release race data so far, showing similar disproportionate impact on African Americans. Louisiana, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois and North Carolina have reported similar data, though experts say this data should have come sooner and broken down further.

Anna Wolfe contributed to this story.


This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

COVID-19

Mississippi reports 1,000 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday

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So far in October, more than half of all U.S. states have reported record numbers of new COVID-19 cases. Missouri is the only state that is reporting a significant drop in new cases. With increased cases come increased hospitalizations. Wisconsin, for example, has set up a field hospital at the state fairgrounds. Deaths, which are a lagging indicator, have also increased in the past couple of weeks, but not as quickly as new cases.

In Mississippi, the number of new reported cases hit 1,000 Wednesday, driving the seven-day average up to nearly 800 per day.

The Mississippi State Department of Health reported one new COVID-19 case Wednesday in Warren County and no new deaths. The cumulative number of cases in Warren County to date is 1,561, and the county’s death toll is 56.

Statewide, MSDH reported 1,000 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, bringing the total cumulative confirmed cases in Mississippi to 117,617. The seven-day average of new cases is 785, higher by 286 cases — more than a third higher— from a month ago.

Most new cases are seen in younger people recently, and they are more likely to survive the virus than those 65 and older. By far, the age group reporting the most cases in Mississippi are young people from 18 to 29 years old.

MSDH reported Wednesday that 19 additional Mississippians died of COVID-19 statewide. The cumulative number of deaths in the state is 3,302. The state’s rate of deaths to confirmed cases is about 2.8%.

Deaths are a lagging indicator. While July saw the highest number of new cases since the crisis began, August saw the highest number of deaths. The highest number of deaths in any one day was 67 reported Aug. 25.

Of the 19 deaths MSDH reported Wednesday, 13 occurred between Oct. 15 and Oct. 27 in the following counties:

County Deaths reported Wednesday
Adams 1
Attala 1
Benton 2
Bolivar 1
Chickasaw 1
Desoto 1
Harrison 1
Jefferson Davis 1
Lamar 1
Tippah 1
Yalobusha 2

Six COVID-19 related deaths reported Wednesday occurred between Aug. 19 and Oct. 20 and were identified from death certificate reports.

County Deaths identified from death certificate reports
Bolivar 1
Humphreys 1
Jackson 1
Lamar 1
Washington 1
Wilkinson 1

New cases and deaths were reported to MSDH as of 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27. MSDH usually reports statistics on the COVID-19 coronavirus each day based on the previous day’s testing and death reports.

The primary metric concerning state health officials are the numbers of people hospitalized, and that number rose steadily with the rise of new cases in July and August. On June 6, the number of Mississippians hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 was at 358. Hospitalizations nearly tripled by late July. They leveled off in early August and began noticeably dropping in the middle of the month including critical cases and numbers of people requiring ventilators. Hospitalizations continued to drop in September but levelled off at the middle of the month. They dropped again through Oct. 3; however, hospitalizations began rising since then. The have leveled off again this week.

The number of Mississippians hospitalized for the virus as of 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27, is 666, more than half of the late July peak of about 1,200. The number includes 577 with confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 89 people with suspected but unconfirmed cases. Of those with confirmed infections, 157 were critically ill and in intensive care units and 62 were on ventilators.

Source: MSDH

MSDH has estimated the number of people who can be presumed recovered from COVID-19 in Mississippi. That number is 101,385 through Sunday, Oct. 25. This figure is updated weekly. It represents about 86.9% of the cumulative 117,617 cases reported as of Wednesday, Oct. 28.

The number of cases in Warren County three weeks ago, Wednesday, Oct. 7, was 1,443, therefore the estimated number of people presumed recovered in the county is 1,387, or about 88.9% of the 1,561 cumulative cases reported as of Wednesday, Oct. 28. The county has an estimated 118 active cases.

These estimates are based on MSDH’s guidelines for calculating estimated recoveries when hospitalizations are not known, using the number of cases 21 days ago, less known outcomes (deaths).

The total number of Mississippians tested for COVID-19 (PCR and antigen tests identifying current infections) as of Saturday, Oct. 17 (the latest testing results reported by MSDH), is 949,085 or about 31.9% of the state’s 2.976 million residents. Without an updated number of tests, it is impossible to accurately calculate Mississippi’s positivity rate (positive results to tests, seven-day average), however, the rate was 16.6% Thursday, Oct. 22, according to Johns Hopkins University. The national rate is 6.2%, and 5% or lower indicates adequate testing.

The total number of outbreaks in long-term care facilities was 132 Wednesday. About 39.8%, or 1,315, of the state’s total deaths were people in long-term care facilities.

A total of 26 deaths in Warren County were residents of LTC facilities.

MSDH is no longer reporting outbreaks in individual long-term care facilities in Mississippi and has replaced it with access to a database from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. You can access and search the data here. The latest data available is for the week ending Oct. 11.

For additional information, visit the MSDH website.

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COVID-19

Vicksburg Warren School District reports four new COVID-19 cases

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The Vicksburg Warren School District is reporting four new COVID-19 cases for the week of Oct. 19 through Oct. 23, 2020.

Additionally, 22 students, teachers and staff are under new quarantines due to possible exposure in the same time period.

The following schools reported new cases and quarantines:

Academy of Innovation
1 new positive case – student
5 quarantined – students

Bowmar Avenue Elementary
2 new positive cases – teacher/staff
1 quarantined – teacher/staff
13 quarantined – students

River City Early College
1 quarantined – student

Warren Central Intermediate School
1 new positive case – teacher/staff
1 quarantined teacher/staff

Central Office Staff 
1 new quarantined – staff

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COVID-19

Ridgeland High football and basketball teams quarantined

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The Madison County School District has ordered the Ridgeland High School football team to quarantine due to three positive COVID-19 tests.

The Titans will quarantine at home for 14 days, which means they will not play Friday. The team was scheduled to play Holmes County Central Friday for their last game of the regular season, but the game has been canceled giving the Holmes Jaguars a big district forfeit win.

The team ends the season with a 6-2 record, only losing one district game due to Friday’s forfeit to the Jaguars. They will likely head into the playoffs after the quarantine.

The Titans boy’s basketball team has also been ordered to suspend practice and quarantine and will not be able continue practice until the end of the two week period.

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