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Mississippi will not mandate masks at the polls for Nov. 3 election

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A few of the masks made by concerned local residents for health-care workers and first responders. (File photo by Thomas Parker)

In Mississippi, those entering a school, a Wendy’s or a Walmart must wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But those entering packed polling places don’t have to don one.

“This is absolute insanity,” said Dr. Claude Earl Fox III, a Mississippi native and former head of public health in Alabama. “What’s to be gained by a no-mask requirement on Election Day?”

Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson says masks can’t be mandated at the polls this November because it’s a federal election.

Assistant Secretary of State Kendra James explained that while their office recommends wearing masks, “the governor, nor anyone else, may impose requirements on voting. No entity other than Congress, the Mississippi Legislature or a validly enacted constitutional amendment may place requirements, such as wearing a mask, on voters.”

That hasn’t stopped some governors from stepping in. Minnesota’s governor ordered voters to wear masks to polling precincts.

Some groups challenged that mandate, saying that wearing a mask violates the First Amendment, but a federal judge dismissed the challenge, saying, “There is no question that Minnesota has the constitutional authority to enact measures to protect the health and safety of its citizens.”

ABC News contacted all 50 states about their mask requirements on Election Day. Of the 39 that responded, 33 plan to require masks or strongly recommend them. Of those that didn’t respond, seven have a mask mandate in place.

In Mississippi, state Rep. Jeramey Anderson, D-Escatawpa, introduced a bill that failed to pass that would have required all voters to wear a mask in and around polling places.

“Voters who aren’t wearing masks could put public health at risk during the coming presidential election and elections following,” Anderson wrote.

Hinds County is requiring voters to wear masks on Election Day.

“We will be providing masks to people that do not have them,” said Hinds County Circuit Clerk Zack Wallace. “We don’t want to turn anyone down for voting.”

People can’t be denied the right to vote, Wallace said, but when it comes to masks, they have to wear them as a matter of public health and safety. Failing to do so, Wallace said, “is not taking care of people.”

On Aug. 4, Gov. Tate Reeves put in place a mask mandate for all citizens. Last week, he became the first governor to rescind that mandate.

“Public and private social gatherings and recreational activities shall be limited to groups of no more than 20 people in a single indoor space or groups of no more than 100 people in an outdoor space where individuals not in the same household are in close proximity (less than 6 feet) to each other,” his Sept. 30 order says.

He did not, however, apply this restriction to voting precincts.

Spokesman Parker Briden said Tuesday that Reeves “strongly encourages mask usage and believes that Mississippians should wear one when they go to the polls and vote.”

In a press conference Friday, Watson said, “We need to make sure Mississippians feel safe and comfortable in going to the polls on Nov. 3.”

His office is delivering more than $500,000 worth of COVID-19 safety supplies, including hand sanitizer, gloves and masks, to circuit clerks across the state.

He said these steps ensure polling places are safe for the public, for staff and for poll workers.

But some poll workers aren’t convinced.

Ardell Hinton, a 65-year-old retiree in Ridgeland, was excited to begin training as a poll worker, but when she found out that Mississippi officials would not require voters to wear masks, she quit.

“I’m not willing to sit there for 10 or 12 hours and risk my life for that,” she said. “That’s why I backed out.”

Failure to require masks makes no sense, Hinton said. “It’s the attitude of some people saying, ‘You can’t tell me what to do.’ What happened to the idea we could sacrifice for each other? We’ve lost too many lives.”

For their part, health officials are urging voters to wear masks when they go to vote.

“No matter the activity, all possible steps should be taken to lessen the chance a virus could be transmitted between people who are in close proximity, especially when indoors,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and dean of the School of Medicine. “Wearing a mask, keeping surfaces sanitized, socially distancing and proper, frequent hand hygiene are all proven to be effective ways to curb virus spread and should continue to be a part of our daily lives until active transmission is no longer a concern.”

Advice from health officials continues to evolve as more is learned about this strain of coronavirus.

Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now say “there is evidence that under certain conditions, people with COVID-19 seem to have infected others who were more than 6 feet away.”

Fox, the former head of public health in Alabama, said with Mississippi suffering such high rates for high-risk factors for COVID-19 (diabetes, hypertension and obesity), requiring masks should be a no-brainer.

“This is a deadly disease, and it’s very indiscriminate,” Fox said. “Some will hardly suffer from it; for others, it’s going to kill them.”

Wearing a mask “has gotten politicized, which is unfortunate,” he said. “We take vaccinations, not just to protect ourselves, but to protect others. You shouldn’t have the right to endanger the lives of other people.”


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

COVID-19

Mississippi’s seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases remains over 600 Monday

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Sunday and Monday saw the expected weekend drop in reported new COVID-19 cases and deaths. Mississippi’s seven-day average remains above 600.

The Mississippi State Department of Health reported three new COVID-19 cases Sunday in Warren County and no new cases Monday. No new deaths were reported either day. The cumulative number of cases in Warren County to date is 1,470, and the county’s death toll is 53.

Statewide, MSDH reported 294 new COVID-19 cases Sunday and 296 cases Monday, bringing the total cumulative confirmed cases in Mississippi to 105,228. The seven-day average of new cases is 646, higher by 197 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 Sunday that five additional Mississippians died of COVID-19 statewide. No new deaths were reported Monday. The cumulative number of deaths in the state is 3,101. The state’s rate of deaths to confirmed cases is about 3%.

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.

MSDH reported Sunday that five deaths occurred between Oct. 5 and Oct. 10 in the following counties:

County Deaths reported Sunday
Lafayette 1
Leflore 1
Marion 1
Montgomery 1
Tate 1

New cases and deaths were reported to MSDH as of 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 10, and Sunday, Oct. 11. 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 continued to drop through Oct. 3; however, they began showing a definite rise last week.

The number of Mississippians hospitalized for the virus as of 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 9, is 600, about half of the late July peak of more than 1,200. The number includes 491 with confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 109 people with suspected but unconfirmed cases. Of those with confirmed infections, 136 were critically ill and in intensive care units and 59 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 90,577 through Sunday, Oct. 4. This figure is updated weekly. It represents about 86% of the cumulative 105,228 cases reported Monday, Oct. 11.

The number of cases in Warren County three weeks ago, Monday, Sept. 21, was 1,381, therefore the estimated number of people presumed recovered in the county is 1,328, or about 90.3% of the 1,470 cumulative cases reported as of Monday, Oct. 11. The county has an estimated 89 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 Sunday, Oct. 3, is 863,957 or about 29% of the state’s 2.976 million residents. The positivity rate (positive results to tests, seven-day average) was 6.3% Sunday according to Johns Hopkins University. The national rate is 5%, and 5% or lower indicates adequate testing.

The total number of outbreaks in long-term care facilities is 126 Monday. About 40.1%, or 1,258, of the state’s total deaths were people in long-term care facilities.

A total of 25 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 Sept. 27.

For additional information, visit the MSDH website.

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Third spike in COVID-19 cases reported Saturday; seven-day average over 600

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With another spike of new COVID-19 cases Saturday, the third in a week, Mississippi’s seven-day average was above 600 for the first time in over a month, further indicating the state may be seeing the beginning of a new surge in cases. Hospitalizations have also continued to rise throughout the week.

The Mississippi State Department of Health reported eight new COVID-19 cases in Warren County Saturday and no new deaths. The cumulative number of cases in Warren County to date is 1,467, and the county’s death toll is 53.

Statewide, MSDH reported 957 new COVID-19 cases Saturday, bringing the total cumulative confirmed cases in Mississippi to 104,638. The seven-day average of new cases is 638, higher by 180 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 Saturday that 16 additional Mississippians died of COVID-19 statewide. The cumulative number of deaths in the state is 3,096. The state’s rate of deaths to confirmed cases is about 3%.

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.

MSDH reported Saturday that 10 deaths occurred between Sept. 23 and Oct. 9 in the following counties:

County Deaths reported Saturday
Alcorn 1
George 1
Hancock 1
Montgomery 1
Panola 1
Stone 1
Tippah 1
Washington 2
Winston 1

Six COVID-19 related deaths occurred between Sept. 25 and Oct. 1 and were identified from death certificate reports.

County Deaths identified on death certificate reports
Desoto 1
Hinds 1
Lee 1
Madison 1
Panola 1
Scott 1

New cases and deaths were reported to MSDH as of 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 9. 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 continued to drop through Oct. 3; however, they have shown a definite rise this week.

The number of Mississippians hospitalized for the virus as of 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 9, is 600, about half of the late July peak of more than 1,200. The number includes 491 with confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 109 people with suspected but unconfirmed cases. Of those with confirmed infections, 136 were critically ill and in intensive care units and 59 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 90,577 through Sunday, Oct. 4. This figure is updated weekly. It represents about 86.6% of the cumulative 104,638 cases reported Saturday, Oct. 10.

The number of cases in Warren County three weeks ago, Saturday, Sept. 19, was 1,380, therefore the estimated number of people presumed recovered in the county is 1,327, or about 90.5% of the 1,467 cumulative cases reported as of Saturday, Oct. 10. The county has an estimated 87 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. 3, is 863,957 or about 29% of the state’s 2.976 million residents. The positivity rate (positive results to tests, seven-day average) was 5.9% Friday according to Johns Hopkins University. The national rate is 4.9%, and 5% or lower indicates adequate testing.

The total number of outbreaks in long-term care facilities is 126 Saturday. About 40.5%, or 1,254, of the state’s total deaths were people in long-term care facilities.

A total of 25 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 Sept. 27.

For additional information, visit the MSDH website.

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Another spike in Mississippi’s new COVID-19 cases reported Friday

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On Friday, the seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases in Mississippi is almost 100 cases higher than it was a month ago, further indicating the state may be seeing the beginning of a new surge in cases. Hospitalizations have also continued to rise throughout the week.

The Mississippi State Department of Health reported seven new COVID-19 cases in Warren County Friday and no new deaths. The cumulative number of cases in Warren County to date is 1,459, and the county’s death toll is 53.

Statewide, MSDH reported 862 new COVID-19 cases Friday, bringing the total cumulative confirmed cases in Mississippi to 103,681. The seven-day average of new cases is 589, higher by nearly 100 cases from where it was 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 six additional Mississippians died of COVID-19 statewide. The cumulative number of deaths in the state is 3,080. The state’s rate of deaths to confirmed cases is about 3%.

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.

MSDH reported Friday that six deaths occurred between Sept. 19 and Oct. 8 in the following counties:

County Deaths reported Friday
Bolivar 1
Desoto 2
Newton 1
Sunflower 1
Walthall 1

New cases and deaths were reported to MSDH as of 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 8. 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 continued to drop through Oct. 3; however, they have shown a definite rise this week.

The number of Mississippians hospitalized for the virus as of 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 7, is 606, about half of the late July peak of more than 1,200. The number includes 472 with confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 134 people with suspected but unconfirmed cases. Of those with confirmed infections, 139 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 90,577 through Sunday, Oct. 4. This figure is updated weekly. It represents about 87.4% of the cumulative 103,681 cases reported Friday, Oct. 9.

The number of cases in Warren County three weeks ago, Friday, Sept. 18, was 1,366, therefore the estimated number of people presumed recovered in the county is 1,313, or about 90% of the 1,459 cumulative cases reported as of Friday, Oct. 9. The county has an estimated 93 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. 3, is 863,957 or about 29% of the state’s 2.976 million residents. The positivity rate (positive results to tests, seven-day average) was 5.6% Thursday according to Johns Hopkins University. The national rate is 4.8%, and 5% indicates adequate testing.

The total number of outbreaks in long-term care facilities is 128 Friday. About 40.6%, or 1,249, of the state’s total deaths were people in long-term care facilities.

A total of 25 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 Sept. 27.

For additional information, visit the MSDH website.

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