JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs provided an update on the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases in Mississippi.
Over the weekend, the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) reported 3,608 new coronavirus cases. On Tuesday, 1,291 new cases were reported. Dr. Dobbs said almost all of the new cases are likely the Delta variant.
According to MSDH, hospitalizations are also rising across the state. Dr. Dobbs said younger people are being hospitalized due to the Delta variant, and hospital ICU space is very limited at this time.
Dobbs stated those who are unvaccinated are driving the transmission in the state, and the Delta variant is twice as contagious.
He said the COVID-19 vaccine is 88% effective against the Delta variant. On Friday, MSDH recommended that doctors and clinicians consider a booster or third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine for certain high-risk groups with immunocompromising conditions.
On Wednesday, MSDH health officials will hold a news conference to discuss another COVID-19 death in a child under 18 years old, the new CDC guidelines and booster shots. The news conference will start at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 28.
Republican Gov. Tate Reeves has been outside Mississippi for several days and has made few public statements about the pandemic, even as Republican governors in neighboring Arkansas and Alabama have been outspoken in promoting vaccination efforts.
Reeves posted Friday on Twitter that “risks associated with not getting vaccinated (are greater than) risks associated with getting vaccinated.”
Reeves’s Twitter and Facebook pages posted photos Tuesday of the governor with one of his daughters in Orlando, Florida, where her club basketball team won a tournament. His recent social media posts also showed that Reeves attended a Republican Governors Association meeting last week in Colorado, then spoke Friday at an local Republican event in Orange County, Florida.
As Mississippi schools are starting or getting ready to start classes, some districts are saying that they are not setting mask mandates because Reeves has not said he will require masks in schools.
Reeves set a statewide mask mandate during August and September, then had mandates in counties with counties where the virus was spreading quickly. He lifted the last of the county mask mandates in early March, and his requirement for masks in schools expired when the academic year ended in May.
The state Health Department said Tuesday that 653 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Mississippi as of Monday, and 199 of them were in intensive care. Those are the highest hospitalization numbers since early February, before vaccinations were widely available.
The hospitalization numbers have increased sharply in recent weeks. On July 1, Mississippi had 113 people hospitalized with COVID-19, with 36 of them in intensive care.
Dobbs said Tuesday that dozens of Mississippi nursing homes had outbreaks as of Monday.
In Mississippi, nearly 79% of nursing home residents and 48% of nursing home staff had been vaccinated against COVID-19 by July 11, according to the most recent information posted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That compared to the national average of about 81% for residents and 58% for staff.
Dobbs had said last week that Mississippi is in a “4th wave” of virus cases, following previous waves in the spring and summer of 2020 and a larger wave of cases early this year before vaccines were widely available.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.