State investigates spike in recently reported coronavirus cases in Ole Miss students

Published 10:22 am Thursday, June 18, 2020

The Mississippi State Department of Health is looking into a possible spike in COVID-19 cases in Lafayette County.

This comes after Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill stated that Since June 1, there have been at least 162 positive cases among University of Mississippi students who do not have a Lafayette County address but are residing in the county during summer months. Those cases do not get reported among the rest of the Lafayette County cases, per MSDH.

The Oxford Eagle contacted  MSDH on Wednesday to see if they were planning to alter their reporting methods of positive cases in college towns throughout Mississippi once the 2020-21 school year begins in August.

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The protocol for reporting positive cases in home counties and states will continue, per a statement from state epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers. However, MSDH is going to “continue to look into” the report of such a high number of positive cases among students.

“We are working on this and will continue to track cases among the student body and will work with University Student Health,” Byers’ statement said. “We will also be working with local providers to enhance these reports. If providers identify clusters or potential outbreaks, they should report those to MSDH. It is important now that everyone, regardless of where you live or whether your area is identified as having increased to transmission, to wear a mask when in public, to limit large gatherings, and to social distance, staying six feet apart. Transmission can occur among these groups when not following these principles. We will continue to look into this concerning report.”

The MSDH statement also went on to say the agency is going to continue maintaining awareness in Oxford and the college community, as they do with other areas where increased transmission has occurred.

During Tuesday’s meeting, the Oxford Board of Aldermen extended the mask requirement in city limits through the rest of the month. They will revisit the issue during a June 29 budget meeting.

The University also sent out a letter to all fraternities and sororities, asking them to not hold anymore “Rush parties,” or face the penalty of social probation for the entire upcoming school year.