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COVID-19

Gov. Reeves and Dr. Dobbs provided updates on state’s COVID-19 response

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Dr. Thomas Dobbs, left, and Gov. Tate Reeves on Thursday, March 26. (Photo via screen grab)

Hours before the news broke that the U.S. now has the most reported cases of COVID-19 cases in the world, surpassing China, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves held a press conference on the steps of the Governor’s Mansion in Jackson with State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs on Thursday.

One of the topics Reeves addressed is the rising numbers of unemployed people in the state. “The total number of unemployment claims this week when compared to a week ago was up 1,200 percent,” he said, noting that other states are facing even larger unemployment figures.

Mississippi already had one of the highest unemployment rates in the country at 5.4% before the crises, and according to the U.S. Department of Labor, Mississippi’s unemployment claims are nearly six times higher than they were earlier this month

As he has done before, the governor vowed to take aggressive action to slow the spread of COVID-19, but he stopped short of issuing a state-wide shelter-in-place order. Reeves said he supported the stay-at-home order that Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards recently issued. Louisiana has more than 2,300 reported cases and 83 deaths.

Reeves clarified his executive order

Earlier this week, Reeves signed an executive order meant to mandate certain social distancing practices, including limiting gatherings of any kind for more than 10 people. That order has caused consternation among some Mississippi cities that already had tougher mandates in place. Some mayors questioned whether the governor’s executive order nullified their emergency actions.

In response, Reeves said that he will sign another executive order to clarify the previous order.

“It sets a state-wide requirement for social gatherings and social distancing,” Reeves said of the order. “It also ensures that essential business operations are maintained.”

The governor said his order set the floor, statewide. Cities and counties can issue orders to go beyond the state’s recommendations, but they can’t do less than the state mandates, and they can’t interfere with his order.

As an example, Reeves said that cities are free to implement curfews, but they can’t implement a curfew that impedes workers from going to work at essential businesses and services.

“No order can keep those essential services from going on,” he said.

Reeves defended the huge number of businesses and services that were identified in the order as essential, covering business categories from grocery stores to Uber drivers and oil-rig workers.

“The definition of essential services is, by and large, consistent with essential services as defined by Department of Homeland Security, their cyber security task force,” Reeves said. “… It’s more or less one and the same.”

Dobbs outlines strategy

Mississippi Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said that he has been looking at best practices in other countries that seem to be slowing the rate of new infections, known as “flattening the curve.” He mentioned both Singapore and South Korea on Thursday.

“They learned a lot from SARS,” he said, before outlining the “collaborative, all-government response” strategy he hopes to implement in Mississippi once financial resources are available.

The first prong of the strategy involves basic case-finding, isolation and quarantining.

“We really have to ramp up testing,” he said, then isolate or quarantine those that test positive.

Dobbs said the state lab has done about 4,000 tests by now and that private labs have done about the same number, bringing the total number of tests completed in Mississippi to about 8,000.

As of March 25, the MSDH Public Health Laboratory reported it has completed 2,776 tests.

“It’s quite a lot,” Dobbs said. He expects cases to rise considerably in the state as testing continues to ramp up. At this time, 485 cases have been identified in the state and six people have died.

Dobbs continued to advocate only testing those with symptoms of the virus, even though people can be contagious even when they are not symptomatic. With additional resources, the tests may be extended to patients with milder symptoms but will not be performed on the “worried well,” he said.

The second part of the strategy includes more aggressive outbreak investigations to quickly identify all cases and all contacts.

“It’s a hugely labor-intensive effort to make sure you find every case and that you have eyes on them to make sure they’re properly isolated,” Dobbs said, “but from there, we want to do an intensive contact investigation to identify that second tier of individuals who are likely to be the next generation of infection and make sure they understand their quarantine obligation to make sure it doesn’t spread beyond that level.”

The third part of the strategy focuses on community outbreak response, where the state’s resources would be focused on the communities where the highest cases of the virus are found.

Dobbs and Reeves agree that the outbreak is in its early stages.

“We expect to see more and more cases,” Dobbs said. “We will see more deaths.”

The governor said he would issue stronger guidelines if necessary.

“Should the public health experts make a determination that there is a region or a county or a city that needs a shelter in place order, I am prepared to enter it,” Reeves said. “When it is in the best interests of the citizens of Mississippi, I will be willing and able to implement it.”

COVID-19

749 new COVID-19 cases reported Friday in Mississippi

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More than a half-million new COVID-19 cases were reported in the U.S. this past week in what is being reported as the worst week since the crises began. The 14-day average for cases saw an increase of 42% while deaths increased by 16%. Hospitalizations have exploded by 46%.

In Mississippi, the seven-day average for new cases is hovering just below 800, while hospitalizations remained fairly flat.

The Mississippi State Department of Health reported five new COVID-19 cases Friday in Warren County and no new deaths. The cumulative number of cases in Warren County to date is 1,571, and the county’s death toll is 56.

Statewide, MSDH reported 749 new COVID-19 cases Friday, bringing the total cumulative confirmed cases in Mississippi to 119,336. The seven-day average of new cases is 780, higher by 263 cases 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 Friday that 18 additional Mississippians died of COVID-19 statewide. The cumulative number of deaths in the state is 3,328. 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 18 deaths MSDH reported Friday, five occurred between Oct. 14 and Oct. 28 in the following counties:

County Deaths reported Friday
Harrison 1
Itawamba 1
Jackson 1
Simpson 1
Tippah 1

Thirteen COVID-19 related deaths occurred between July 31 and Oct. 25, identified from death certificate reports.

County Deaths identified from death certificate reports
Chickasaw 1
Copiah 1
Forrest 1
Grenada 1
Hancock 1
Harrison 1
Jackson 1
Jefferson Davis 1
Marshall 1
Monroe 1
Oktibbeha 1
Sunflower 1
Yazoo 1

New cases and deaths were reported to MSDH as of 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29. 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. They have leveled off this week.

The number of Mississippians hospitalized for the virus as of 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29, is 712, more than half of the late July peak of about 1,200. The number includes 609 with confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 103 people with suspected but unconfirmed cases. Of those with confirmed infections, 173 were critically ill and in intensive care units and 72 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 101,336 through Sunday, Oct. 25. This figure is updated weekly. It represents about 85% of the cumulative 119,336 cases reported as of Friday, Oct. 30.

The number of cases in Warren County three weeks ago, Friday, Oct. 9, was 1,459, therefore the estimated number of people presumed recovered in the county is 1,403, or about 89.3% of the 1,571 cumulative cases reported as of Friday, Oct. 30. The county has an estimated 112 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. 24 (the latest testing results reported by MSDH), is 1,002,327 or about 33.7% 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 6.9% Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University. The national rate is 6.3%, and 5% or lower indicates adequate testing.

The total number of outbreaks in long-term care facilities was 131 Friday. About 39.3%, or 1,319, 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. 18.

For additional information, visit the MSDH website.

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COVID-19

Vicksburg mayor extends COVID-19 restrictions and mandates another month

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Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr. during July 15 news conference. (Photo by Thomas Parker)

Friday, Mayor George Flaggs, Jr. extended the city’s COVID-19 restrictions and mandates for an additional 30 days.

The extension also applies to the juvenile curfew and the special crime task force previously put in place by the city.

The following is a summary of the new proclamation:

RETAIL BUSINESSES

Face Coverings are still required in the City of Vicksburg inside all retail businesses, including grocery stores, building supply stores, cigar shops, convenience stores, liquor stores, and any other store that sells items to the public. However, maximum capacity may go back to 100% as long as strict social distancing, 6 feet separation, can be ensured between persons who are not in the same household.

RESTAURANTS & BARS

Face coverings are still required of employees and customers while not eating or drinking. Maximum capacity may go back to 100 % as long as strict social distancing can be maintained between tables and parties/groups. Limit of 10 to a table. Places that sell alcohol or allow consumption of alcohol on the premises must stop serving, selling or consuming by 11 p.m. and close the business by midnight.

SALONS, BARBER SHOPS, SPAS, MASSAGE PARLORS, TATTOO PARLORS, PERSONAL GROOMING OR PET GROOMERS

Face coverings are still required of employees and customers. Maximum capacity may go back to 100% as long as strict social distancing can be maintained between customers.

GYMS & FITNESS CENTERS

Face coverings are still required and must not exceed 75% capacity. Must clean and disinfect high contact equipment and areas frequently. Hand sanitizer must be available at entrances and exits.

MOVIE THEATERS & AUDITORIUMS

Face coverings are still required and must not exceed 75% capacity. Must clean and disinfect high contact equipment and areas frequently. Hand sanitizer must be available at entrances and exits.

DANCE STUDIOS, LIBRARIES & MUSEUMS, INDOOR RECREATION & PLACES OF AMUSEMENT, OUTDOOR RECREATION & PLACES OF AMUSEMENT

Face coverings are still required indoors and may go back to 100% maximum capacity as long as strict social distancing can be maintained between persons not in the same household.

RECEPTION HALLS AND CONFERENCE CENTERS

Face coverings are still required and may go back to 100% maximum capacity as long as strict social distancing can be maintained between persons not in the same household. For seated dinners only, there shall be at least six (6) feet between tables and a maximum at ten (10) persons at each table.

IN GENERAL

  1. Face Coverings are still required in all businesses, except manufacturing businesses.
  2. Exceptions to the face covering requirement:
    1. Any individual who will not come in contact with any other individual and can maintain social distancing (6 feet apart);
    2. Any child under 8, but strongly encouraged for ages 2-7;
    3. Any individual with a medical condition that prevents wearing a face covering;
    4. Any individual who is consuming food or drinks;
    5. Any individual seeking to communicate with someone who is hearing impaired;
    6. Any individual giving a speech for broadcast or to an audience; and
    7. . Any individual temporarily removing his or her face covering for identification purposes.

GROUP GATHERINGS

All persons in public or private social gatherings/activities shall maintain social distancing of a minimum of 6 feet apart between individuals not in the same household. If indoors, a face covering is required if persons are not able to maintain a minimum of 6 feet separation.

RELIGIOUS SERVICES

Places of worship are encouraged to follow the Safe Worship Guidelines adopted May 20, 2020. Face coverings are encouraged.

Worshipers shall maintain social distancing of a minimum of 6 feet apart between individuals not in the same household.

FUNERALS

Funerals are encouraged to be grave side. May be held at Church or Funeral Home at 11 a.m. or 2 p.m. or at the City Auditorium at 11 a.m. or 2 p.m. All persons shall maintain social distancing of a minimum of 6 feet apart between individuals not in the same household. Upon proof of death due to COVID-19, the cost for the City Auditorium for the funeral shall be one-half of the regular auditorium fee.

JUVENILE CURFEW

The curfew for juveniles 17 and under will remain in place with the exceptions of traveling to or from work, being with a parent or guardian, traveling to or from a legitimate school function or organized youth sport activity.

SPECIAL LAW ENFORCEMENT TASK FORCE

The special law enforcement task force will remain in place on Thursdays through Sundays from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

BUSINESS SCREENING AND CLEANING

Businesses shall continue to screen employees and customers and disinfect high contact areas.

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COVID-19

Mayor to hold news conference Friday on COVID-19

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Mayor George Flaggs Jr. at a news conference Oct. 8. (photo via video screen grab/Video by Thomas Parker)

 Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr. will hold a news conference Friday at 2:30 p.m. in the Robert M. Walker Building Board Room regarding COVID-19.

The current proclamation expires Monday, Nov. 2 at 8 a.m.

Look for updated information and plan to watch the news conference live on the Vicksburg Daily News Facebook page.

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