JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Mississippi’s top health official said the delta coronavirus variant is “sweeping across Mississippi like a tsunami” as the state reported more than 3,000 new cases of the highly transmittable virus in a single day Thursday.
“If we look at our trajectory, we see that it’s continuing to increase without any real demonstration of leveling off or decreasing,” State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said during a virtual briefing with press.
Dobbs said 90% of new coronavirus cases in Mississippi are now the delta variant. The state’s major hospital systems are overwhelmed — 178 new patients were hospitalized in a single day Wednesday — with almost no ICU beds available for patients, he said.
During the briefing, MSDH leaders also discussed the updated COVID guidelines for colleges and universities. They said the agency is recommending that all eligible students, faculty and staff receive the COVID-19 vaccination. They also said face masks should be worn universally indoors for all students, faculty, staff and visitors, regardless of vaccination status.
MSDH officials recommended colleges and universities maintain physical distance between students within classroom settings, combined with universal indoor mask wearing, to reduce transmission risk.
Fully vaccinated individuals who come in close contact with an infected person would not have to quarantine unless they develop symptoms. It’s recommended they receive COVID-19 testing three to five days after exposure.
Students, faculty and staff who are not fully vaccinated and are identified as close contacts to COVID-19 should be in quarantine for a full 14 days, according to MSDH.
Many K-12 public school districts have opted to create their own policies requiring masks before the start of the year, but some have resisted.
Republican Gov. Tate Reeves has said he won’t put a blanket mask requirement in place. Dobbs said Thursday they aren’t seeing “a lot of motivation for statewide mandates right now,” but urged schools to think carefully about what is the safest policy for their communities.
“You can’t fill a classroom with non-immune kids without a mask on with the most contagious coronavirus we’ve ever seen circulating and expect for it not to spread — it’s just biology,” Dobbs said. “Our will and desire to abandon safety measures does not trump the reality of the biology of the delta virus.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.