Number of students in Mississippi with virus doubled within week, data show

Published 5:11 pm Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Newly confirmed cases of the coronavirus among students in Mississippi have nearly doubled in a week’s time, according to data released by the department of health.

The number of students who tested positive for coronavirus increased from 579 from Nov. 2 through Nov. 6 to more than 1,000 from Nov. 9 to Nov. 13. Last week, schools reported 70 outbreaks, which means more than three cases were reported within a confined setting over the course of two weeks.

“You see that things are really starting to heat up,” State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said Tuesday during a virtual briefing with reporters. Byers was addressing coronavirus developments in Mississippi’s school system.

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More than 14,000 students in Mississippi have been placed in quarantine within the last week, according to the state. That’s compared with about 9,000 students during the previous week.

Children generally don’t appear to get sick or experience symptoms as often as adults when they’re infected with coronavirus. However, since the start of the pandemic, at least three children have died of complications from the virus, Byers said.

Several teachers have died from Covid-19 since students returned to school, although Mississippi’s State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly where a person became infected, and whether it was a result of being in the classroom.

“There are teachers who have died, and linking it specifically to an outbreak is hard to do,” Dobbs said. “But is it possible, and has it likely occurred? Yes.”

Most recently, a teacher’s aide at Hernando Elementary School in DeSoto County, which is reporting the most coronavirus cases in the entire state, died from coronavirus complications, DeSoto County Schools confirmed to WREG-TV on Monday.

Schools are required to report on a weekly basis the numbers of teachers and students who test positive for coronavirus or are in quarantine, as well as the number of outbreaks in a school. The data released by the Mississippi State Department of Health for this past week was based on data reported by 880 of the 1,200 schools in the state.

The health department is now tracking how many schools have opted to temporarily transition to virtual learning because of outbreaks. More than 65 schools have gone virtual within the last week becasue of outbreaks or an increased number of teachers and students in quarantine, Byers said.

The Mississippi State Department of Health said Tuesday that Mississippi, with a population of about 3 million, has reported more than 135,800 confirmed coronavirus cases and at least 3,581 deaths from COVID-19 as of Monday evening. That’s an increase of 905 cases and 36 deaths from the day before. Nineteen deaths occurred between Nov. 10 and Nov. 16 and were identified later using death certificates.

While most people who contract the coronavirus recover after suffering only mild to moderate symptoms, it can be deadly for older patients and those with other health problems.