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Complete your COVID-19 back-to-school checklist

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(Image by Innviertlerin from Pixabay)

Story by Susan Barber Lindquist, Mayo Clinic News Network

Families and school districts are weighing difficult decisions on whether to return to school in person, online or a combination of both during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“No matter what education model is chosen — in-person, distance learning or a hybrid of the two, we want to provide guidance to parents, children, teachers and staff on how to stay as safe and healthy as possible this school year,” says Nipunie Rajapakse, M.D., a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Mayo Clinic.

“These tips will be familiar, and they continue to be the most effective ways we have to minimize the risk of COVID-19 exposure and spread. Certain strategies may be more effective for certain age groups of children. A combination of strategies is important because no single measure provides 100% protection from exposure,” says Dr. Rajapakse.

Watch: Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse discusses back-to-school recommendations

(Video courtesy Mayo Clinic News Network)

Practice safe distancing.

When possible, follow safe social distancing of at least 6 feet, even when wearing a mask.

“COVID-19 is primarily spread from person to person through respiratory droplets released into the air when coughing, sneezing, talking or singing,” Dr. Rajapakse says. “When you’re unable to wear a mask, such as when eating in the cafeteria, social distancing is even more critical to reduce the risk of virus transmission.”

Wear a mask.

Wear a mask to limit the spread of respiratory droplets.

“It’s a great idea for students, teachers and staff to keep a clean backup mask somewhere convenient, like their backpack, locker or desk,” notes Dr. Rajapakse. “Make sure to clearly label your child’s mask with his or her name, and teach children never to share or trade masks with others.”

Clean your hands frequently.

Wash your hands with soap and water, or apply and use hand sanitizer frequently. For appropriate use of hand sanitizer, follow these steps:

  • Apply one to two squirts of sanitizer to the palm of one hand ― enough to cover all surfaces of the hands.
  • Rub the sanitizer over all the surfaces of hands, fingers and nails until dry. This should take at least 20 seconds.
  • Keep a to-go size hand sanitizer container nearby.

“Cleaning hands regularly throughout the day is very important, especially before eating, after using the bathroom, or before and after touching shared surfaces or your mask,” Dr. Rajapakse says.

Disinfect high-touch surfaces.

Disinfect surfaces routinely and immediately if they become visibly soiled. Disinfect items frequently touched such as light switches, door handles, faucets and keyboards.

Perform symptom self-checks and stay home if sick.

Every day before going to school, check for symptoms of illness, especially COVID-19 symptoms, such as new-onset cough or shortness of breath. If you are sick, avoid spreading germs by staying home from school or other activities.

“Even though it may seem like just a minor runny nose or cough, staying home from school or work is the right thing to do to reduce the risk of exposing others to not only COVID-19, but other respiratory viruses like influenza, as well,” Dr. Rajapakse says. “Everyone over 6 months old is strongly recommended to get an influenza vaccine this fall. During this pandemic we have also seen many children fall behind on their routine vaccines so it is important to check with your primary care provider and ensure all of your child’s vaccines are up to date prior to returning to school.”

School year will be a challenge

No matter which learning model is chosen by communities, the school year is going to be challenging.

“We know how important schools and teachers are — supporting students’ education, social development and mental health,” Dr. Rajapakse says. “Ultimately, how to participate in school will be a family decision, weighing all the factors in your specific circumstances — your own family’s health risks, the academic needs of your children, your work demands and, of course, the amount of COVID-19 transmission in your communities.”

Check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for additional updates on COVID-19.

COVID-19

Governor adds seven counties to list of those under stricter COVID-19 measures

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Gov. Tate Reeves during April 22 news conference. (Photo via video screen grab)

Monday, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves added seven counties to the list of those in the state that will fall under more restrictive COVID-19 measures effective Wednesday, Oct. 21.

With cases and hospitalizations rising in the state, last week Reeves put nine counties under the stricter measures, which include a mask mandate in nearly all indoor situations other than at voting precincts.

The 16 counties are:

  • Benton
  • Carroll
  • Chickasaw
  • Claiborne
  • DeSoto
  • Forrest
  • Harrison
  • Itawamba
  • Jackson
  • Jones
  • Lamar
  • Leake
  • Lee
  • Madison
  • Marshall
  • Neshoba

The governor’s criteria for stricter measures includes more than 500 cases per 100,000 residents or more than 200 cases over a two-week period. The most recent period under scrutiny was Monday, Oct. 5, through Sunday, Oct. 18.

The measures also mandate hospitals to reserve 10% of their capacity for COVID-19 patients, and limit gathering to groups of 10 indoors and 50 outdoors.

Asked why Reeves excluded polling places from the mandates, the governor indicated he would not interfere with a citizen’s right to vote by forcing voters to wear masks. He does expect most voters to wear masks at the polls and to practice social distancing, however.

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Business

Vicksburg’s China Buffet reopens for dine-in service Nov. 4

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(photo via Facebook, used with permission)

The China Buffet of Vicksburg will be back open for dine-in service Wednesday, Nov. 4.

The restaurant, located at 4150 S. Frontage Road, announced the reopening Monday on its Facebook page.

China Buffet closed its doors earlier this year when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and a short time later reopened for carry-out service only.

As of next week, customers will be able to sit down and eat inside again and enjoy the buffet for the first time in months at the popular restaurant.

Customers can still call in their orders to pick up food (601-630-0331) until the dine-in service begins.

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COVID-19

Mississippi reports 675 new COVID-19 cases this weekend; 7-day average up 30% from last month

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The number of new COVID-19 cases continues to rise across the U.S., with a 23% increase over the past week and two record-setting days. In Mississippi, the seven-day average is 30% higher now than it was one month ago.

Almost no state is immune to the rise, with 37 states reporting growing numbers of new cases and the other 13 relatively flat, according to Johns Hopkins University data. No state reported statistically significant COVID-19 decreases last week.

The Mississippi State Department of Health reported three new COVID-19 cases Sunday and Monday in Warren County and one new death identified from a death certificate report. The cumulative number of cases in Warren County to date is 1,551, and the county’s death toll is 56.

Statewide, MSDH reported 675 new COVID-19 cases Monday for Sunday and Monday, with 228 reported Sunday and 447 Monday, bringing the total cumulative confirmed cases in Mississippi to 115,763. The seven-day average of new cases is 739, higher by 226 cases or about 30% higher than a month ago.

Most new cases are seen in younger people recesntly, 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 Monday that eight additional Mississippians died of COVID-19 statewide. The cumulative number of deaths in the state is 3,263. 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 eight deaths MSDH reported Monday, four occurred between Oct. 11 and Oct. 25 in the following counties:

County Deaths reported Monday
George 1
Leake 1
Marion 1
Tippah 1

Another four COVID-19 related deaths occurred between Aug. 29 and Oct. 6 and were identified from death certificate reports.

County Deaths identified from death certificate reports
Grenada 1
Hinds 1
Jackson 1
Warren 1

New cases and deaths were reported to MSDH as of 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24, and Sunday, Oct. 25. 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 have been rising since then.

The number of Mississippians hospitalized for the virus as of 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23, is 679, more than half of the late July peak of about 1,200. The number includes 580 with confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 99 people with suspected but unconfirmed cases. Of those with confirmed infections, 157 were critically ill and in intensive care units and 66 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 87.6% of the cumulative 115,763 cases reported as of Monday, Oct. 26.

The number of cases in Warren County three weeks ago, Monday, Oct. 5, was 1,431, therefore the estimated number of people presumed recovered in the county is 1,375, or about 88.7% of the 1,551 cumulative cases reported as of Monday, Oct. 26. The county has an estimated 120 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. 10 (the latest testing results reported by MSDH), is 900,479 or about 30.3% 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 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 133 Monday. About 40%, or 1,304, 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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