September 22, 2020

More Mississippi schools open and find more COVID-19 cases in multiple counties

As more schools in Mississippi open, more cases of students infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus are being found, the state’s top health officer said Wednesday afternoon.

“We are having more and more cases in schools as they open up,” Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said. “These aren’t kids who caught it there. They’re bringing it in.”

He said the health department is aware of schools with cases reported in Alcorn, Tate, Forrest, Tippah and Webster counties.

Dobbs said he and other health officials expect more cases will be found as more schools open.

In the Corinth School District, which was the first district in the state to open on July 27, a total of 7 cases have been identified, the school district reported.

Six of those cases are in students — five at the high school and one at the middle school — and one case is a teacher at the district’s elementary school.

Dobbs said more than 100 students in the Corinth district have been sent home to quarantine after being exposed to people who tested positive.

The Corinth district has become a bit of a canary in the COVID coal mine as all eyes are on the district to understand if schools can be opened reasonably with coronavirus restrictions in place and avoid widespread infections.

“The Corinth School District has done a fantastic job of planning, which has been very wonderful,” Dobbs said Tuesday. “I think it could be a real model for looking how do you do things safely and also understand how do you trace these students after an exposure.

“So, this is a wonderful opportunity for us to work with them and learn for future exposures because without a doubt, we’re gonna have, every day every school that opens is gonna have some child, some teenager with coronavirus walking through the door. Just based on the law of averages, we’re gonna see that.”

Dobbs said one of the biggest challenges of starting school now is going to be the high likelihood that large numbers of students will need to be quarantined.