Disobeying health guidelines may be behind recent COVID-19 spikes in predominantly white counties

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JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – In this new wave of coronavirus cases spiking in Mississippi, doctors are seeing vice-versa trends with who’s getting infected the most. Recent data from the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) showed that in the last two weeks predominantly white communities have been contracting and spreading the virus.

Over the past two weeks, Mississippi has averaged about 759 new COVID-19 cases per-day. More than half of the cases are from white patients in counties with a majority white population. One of the top political research agencies, Pew Research, showed politics might be fueling this surge.

New graphics released from State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs illustrated white Mississippians making up over 61% of COVID-19 infections from Oct. 5. through Oct. 18, almost doubling the cases of African Americans.

“Over 60% of new cases in the past two weeks are in Caucasians and over 60% of new deaths are in Caucasians,” Dr. Dobbs said in a recent briefing. “So, we’ve seen a significant shift and a drop partially in cases and deaths within the African American community.

The latest reports from MSDH showed Hinds County, one of the hot spots for COVID-19 cases, only saw a 4% jump in cases the past two weeks. Lincoln County increased by 13%, Hancock County by 17% and Benton County jumped up 15%. None are part of the governor’s new mask mandate.

“In the white communities, really what we’re seeing is it’s a question of compliance,” Investigative Reporter Larrison Campbell said. “This idea of wearing masks has got very politicized, and you’re not seeing the same rates of compliance among white Mississippians.”

Nineteen different studies and research projects gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) illustrated the common way COVID-19 spreads in droplets through the air and on surfaces gets cut off by a masked barrier called source control.

“A virus’ job is to stay alive. It stays alive by moving through groups,” Campbell added. “And once it moves through a group, it moves onto another group. It’s tearing through white communities right now, and the cycle is going to continue. If it comes back around with communities of color, I think the health outcomes just due to communities of color tend to have worse outcomes from it.”

Four of the top five counties showed the highest rates are predominantly white and voted for President Trump in 2016, pointing investigators to political views driving their attitudes to not take precautions.

“There’s politics and then there are facts, or there’s politics and there’s science,” Campbell continued. “They’ve now become intertwined, and if science is something you don’t like, it’s because it’s been politicized. Probably the biggest legacy of Trump’s presidency.”

Even though there is not a statewide mask mandate, the governor is still encouraging Mississippians to wear a mask in public.

In her analysis, Campbell spoke to pastors down in Lincoln County to see if they’ll require masks once they switch to indoor services. Their response was sticking to personal choices.

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