Mississippi health chief: ‘Every community is one wild weekend from falling off the cliff’ with coronavirus

Published 4:20 pm Thursday, May 28, 2020

While Mississippi is opening up all businesses after weeks of shutdowns to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, the state’s top health official warns every community in the state could flare up in days, if residents ignore suggested precautions.

“Every community is one wild weekend from falling off the cliff,” State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said Thursday. “I don’t care how great you’ve been, and if you’re in a northern county and everything is great and say, OK we can go back to normal.

“You can’t go back to normal. What you’ve been doing is working and keep it up, congratulations don’t let up your guard,” he said.

The state is investigating and working to trace contacts of approximately 100 people who attended a funeral in Baldwin earlier this month where a patient with the virus is believed to have spread it to many others. Dobbs said that case is a prime example of what can happen — quickly.

“Because one huge party and you get 20, 30, 50 infections from one gathering because we know people can spread it to a whole bunch of people when you grab them together, kind of like the funeral situation,” he said. “And, we’ll have more of those.”

“Please, if your county is doing great, keep it up. Don’t let your guard down because it’s going to not only cause illness, but it’s going to stress the health system, and people are going to get sick and die.

Mississippi reported an additional 328 new cases of coronavirus Thursday along with 23 new deaths attributed to the virus.

In total, 14,372 cases of the virus have been detected in the state, the majority of those have recovered, but 693 people have died and hundreds remain hospitalized.

“Obviously, we continue to accumulate cases and deaths and this thing is not even remotely over, sadly,” Dobbs said.

“We have seen an increase in hospital utilization.”

With Thursday’s update, 449 patients were hospitalized with 148 in ICU beds and 78 on ventilators, Dobbs said.

An increasing hospitalization rate is a concern, Dobbs said, because while statewide the state’s health system isn’t stressed, in certain pockets it’s beginning to get tight.

“It’s an area we need to watch closely,” he said. “We know that some of the big hospitals in Jackson have limited capacity.”

One such pocket is in Wayne County where cases have skyrocketed in the last 10 days or so.

Dobbs said the prevalence in Wayne County is most attributed to community spread.

“Community members who no longer were heeding the social distancing guidance and the mass gatherings, and some were quite large, and we have some evidence that some of those were points of outbreaks, where many many cases are likely to come.

Dobbs reiterated that social distancing — staying six feet apart in public — and wearing face masked in public are the key to Mississippi keeping the virus under control.

“If we could all just do those simple things, we can do the majority of stuff we want to do as far as daily lives, work and family,” he said.

Gov. Tate Reeves agreed with Dobbs citing that Mississippians, using common sense and concern for one another are key.

“The single-most important thing in protecting Mississippians from this virus is for individuals to exhibit personal responsibility,” he said.