MSDH leaders discuss impact of COVID-19 after 1st case reported last year


JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Leaders at the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) held a news conference on Monday, March 8, 2021, to discuss the impact of the coronavirus.

The first coronavirus case was reported on March 11, 2020. On March 19, 2020, the state reported its first death. The cases started the first wave of an uptick in cases in Mississippi. According to State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers, 50 percent of the deaths that occurred during the first wave happened in long term care facilities.

In April 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended universal mask use in order to prevent the virus. In May 2020, Mississippi reported its first case of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C). The case was in a child in Central Mississippi who tested positive for COVID-19 has been discharged from the hospital.

According to Byers, Mississippi started to see a downward trend in May 2020, but the second wave of the virus started after July 4, 2020 and lasted through September 2020. There was an increase in cases and deaths. The first pediatric death from COVID-19 was reported in August 2020.

From late August to September 2020, there was an decrease in case numbers and deaths. However, a third surge lasted from November 2020 to February 2021 during the holiday season. Byers said the state saw its peak number of hospitalizations, which was more than 1,400, during the third wave.

In February 2021, Mississippi reported its first variant strain.

As of March 2021, the state is continuing to see downward trends. On Monday, March 8, the state reported 70 new cases and no additional deaths.

There are three COVID-19 vaccines now available in Mississippi:

  • Pfizer
  • Moderna
  • Johnson & Johnson

On December 14, 2020, the first vaccines were distributed in Mississippi. State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs, Senior Deputy and Director of Health Protection Jim Craig and Byers were some of the first to receive the vaccine in the state.

Dobbs credited the quick rollout of the vaccine to many years of research by scientists. He said immunization efforts have not been easy in Mississippi due to access.

On Monday, March 8, the CDC announced fully vaccinated Americans can gather with other vaccinated people indoors without wearing a mask or social distancing, which Dobbs said was good news.

Even though there is no statewide mask mandate at this time, Mississippians are still encouraged to wear face masks to prevent the spread of the virus.

Craig said there are still many locations in Mississippi where patients can still be tested for the virus. Click here to see the locations. Mississippians can also schedule vaccine appointments at

As of February 28, 2021, Craig said more than two million Mississippians have been tested for the virus.

On Thursday, March 4, Governor Tate Reeves announced the state expanded COVID-19 vaccination eligibility to anyone 50-years of age or older.

The modified eligibility criteria for COVID-19 vaccine in Mississippi are as follows:

  • All persons aged 50 years and older.
  • All teachers/staff/employees in K-12, preschool or childcare settings.
  • All first responders (including law enforcement, public safety, fire services and emergency management officials)
  • All healthcare personnel.
  • Persons aged 16-49 years with underlying medical conditions, as follows: cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), Down syndrome, heart conditions (such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies), immunocompromised from solid organ transplant, obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30 kg/m2 or severe Obesity (BMI ≥ 40 kg/m2), pregnancy, sickle cell disease, smoking, diabetes, or other medical conditions determined by the medical provider.

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