Vicksburg and Warren County residents are still adjusting to the shelter-in-place order that was enacted on April 3. One of the many individuals in the community who are reaching out to serve others during this time, including children and health-care workers, is Robyn Lea.
Lea, a local insurance agent, is the creator of “Coffee With,” an interview program that was broadcast weekly on the Vicksburg Daily News Facebook page.
Lea usually interviews Vicksburg natives about creative deeds or community service that directly affects people’s lives. However, she has interviewed people outside of the community. Lea is aware that she can use platforms like Zoom, a video call service, to continue her interviews, but she prefers to sit down with her subjects.
“I like the factor of being face to face with them,” Lea said.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, Lea has been unable to continue with her normal programming. Instead, she decided to read children’s books every day instead of doing an interview.
She has read many Dr. Seuss books, “The Swiss Family Robinson,” and most recently, “The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle.”
“If the parents have to work or take a break, the parents will know that the kids will be appropriately entertained,” she said.
Lea has read to students in Vicksburg’s elementary schools for many years. For the past five years, she has partnered with the schools for Dr. Suess’ Birthday.
“I think there are three things in life that can make you a successful person, and one of those three things is to be a good, strong reader,” Lea said.
Lea is having success online with reading pre-K through second-grade books. However, she is recently receiving more views on chapter books.
After the pandemic, she is not clear that she will be able to continue reading stories online.
“I don’t know with my full-time job and ‘Coffee With’ that I will be to do all of that,” Lea said. “If I do decide to continue reading, I will probably have to choose one or the other.”
During this strange time, Lea is also active in serving the community in other ways. Recently, she provided lunch and made masks for Mission Primary Care Clinic’s doctors, nurse practitioners and nurses.
“I want children here to know that they can go and be adventurous, and there are other places in the world that are fascinating and fun and within reach,” Lea said.
Watch: Governor announces additional COVID-19 measures
In the wake of a recent spike of new COVID-19 cases in Mississippi, Gov. Tate Reeves announced additional measures Monday to slow the spread of the virus.
A new executive order places a 10% capacity requirement on health care facilities across the state. If hospitals cannot maintain 10% of their capacity for COVID-19 patients, they must delay elective procedures. This was a vital part of the effort to prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed during the summer wave. Mississippi’s COVID-19 cases have increased over the past few weeks—part of a global and national trend of increasing cases.
The governor also announced additional targeted measures for counties that meet the standards established during the summer wave. In these counties, indoor social gatherings should be limited to groups of 10. Outdoor social gatherings should be limited to groups of 50. Face coverings are required while indoors and interacting with the public without social distancing.
“We’ve seen this before,” Reeves said during a live news conference Monday streamed on Facebook. “We know what can happen if we allow this to get out of control, and so we want to be proactive to prevent that from happening. None of these elements are silver bullets. None of them will totally eliminate the virus. We have to allow for life to go on in the meantime. As we wait for a vaccine, our mission is the same as it ever was: to prevent our health care system from being overwhelmed. That has to be the focus.”
Counties must meet the following criteria for additional measures: more than 500 cases per 100,000 residents over a designated two-week period or more than 200 cases total over the designated two-week period (with more than 200 cases per 100,000 residents).
The counties that currently meet the criteria for additional COVID-19 safety measures are Chickasaw, Claiborne, DeSoto, Forrest, Itawamba, Jackson, Lamar, Lee and Neshoba.
View a copy of the executive order here.
“You’re smart. You know what you need to do to keep safe,” Reeves wrote in a Facebook post Monday. “We’ll keep trying to set policies that mitigate rampant spread while respecting everyone’s individual rights.
“Please stay watchful and be careful. We can get through this together.”
Speculation growing over whether Reeves will reinstate a mask mandate
As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Mississippi, speculation about whether Gov. Tate Reeves will reinstate a mask mandate has also grown.
Monday, U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson tweeted that the state should reconsider implementing a mandate once again.
In the absence of a vaccine and an increase of infections in Mississippi, the state should reconsider implementing a statewide mask mandate. We should follow Dr. Fauci’s and other recommendations requiring wearing masks in public.
— Bennie G. Thompson (@BennieGThompson) October 19, 2020
After a surge in July and August put the state’s hospitals in danger of being overwhelmed, the governor allowed the statewide mandate to expire Sept. 30 after cases in Mississippi fell throughout most of September. The Magnolia State was the only state to drop its mandate. Cases in Mississippi leveled off toward the end of the month.
Cases began rising again in October. Last week’s seven-day averages reached a high of nearly 800 cases with two days, Thursday and Friday, reporting more than 1,000 cases each. During the same time frame in September, seven-day averages were generally under 500.
State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said last week that he expects the governor to announce measures to curb COVID-19 cases, possibly mandating masks on a county-by-county basis instead of statewide. He admitted, though, that he did not know Reeves’ plan of action.
Thursday in a social media post, Reeves said he wanted to be “cautious and limited in using executive action.”
Dobbs has expressed increasing concern over the number of rising cases.
“I do think we are on the front end of something that could be bad,” he said in a Zoom meeting Oct. 12 before the week’s worst numbers came in.
“The last time we saw that was before the summer surge. That doesn’t mean we can’t turn that around. It’s not that hard,” he added.
The governor will hold a live news conference Monday at 2:30 p.m.
No new COVID-19 deaths reported Monday in Mississippi
The Mississippi State Department of Health did not provide any COVID-19 updates Sunday, and did not provide a reason. The agency reported combined statistics for Sunday’s and Monday’s new cases and deaths Monday. As expected, case counts dropped over the weekend with fewer labs reporting results. No new deaths in the state were reported for either day.
MSDH reported three new COVID-19 cases Sunday and Monday in Warren County and no new deaths. The cumulative number of cases in Warren County to date is 1,521, and the county’s death toll is 54.
Statewide, MSDH reported 586 new COVID-19 cases Monday, bringing the total cumulative confirmed cases in Mississippi to 110,592. The seven-day average of new cases is 766, higher by 271 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 Monday that no additional Mississippians died of COVID-19 statewide Sunday. The cumulative number of deaths in the state is 3,171. The state’s rate of deaths to confirmed cases is about 2.9%.
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.
New cases and deaths were reported to MSDH as of 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17, and Sunday, Oct. 18. 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 showing a rise since then.
The number of Mississippians hospitalized for the virus as of 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16, is 609, about half of the late July peak of more than 1,200. The number includes 501 with confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 108 people with suspected but unconfirmed cases. Of those with confirmed infections, 140 were critically ill and in intensive care units and 69 were on ventilators.
MSDH has estimated the number of people who can be presumed recovered from COVID-19 in Mississippi. That number is 94,165 through Sunday, Oct. 11. This figure is updated weekly. It represents about 85.2% of the cumulative 110,592 cases reported Monday, Oct. 19.
The number of cases in Warren County three weeks ago, Monday, Sept. 28, was 1,409, therefore the estimated number of people presumed recovered in the county is 1,355, or about 89.1% of the 1,521 cumulative cases reported as of Monday, Oct. 19. 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 Thursday, Oct. 15, is 900,479 or about 30.3% of the state’s 2.976 million residents. Mississippi’s positivity rate (positive results to tests, seven-day average) was 16.9% Sunday according to Johns Hopkins University. The national rate is 5.3%, and 5% or lower indicates adequate testing.
The total number of outbreaks in long-term care facilities is 127 Monday. About 40.4%, or 1,280, 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 Oct. 4.
For additional information, visit the MSDH website.
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