Data suggests Mississippi’s COVID-19 battle made racial shift in recent months; here’s how

Published 4:46 pm Thursday, December 3, 2020

Mississippi’s battle against the COVID-19 coronavirus began in March when the first case was detected in the state and nine months into the pandemic, distinctive racial lines appear to be emerging from new case data.

Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs shared a chart this week on social media that showed the weekly racial makeup of new COVID-19 cases.

Dobbs shared the graphic without comment but analyzing the graphic and previous state reporting shows that initially, new coronavirus cases in Mississippi were predominantly in people identified as being black.

By mid- to late-July, that statistic leveled off with an approximately equal number of black and white Mississippians contracting the virus. Approximately 2.1 percent of Mississippi’s COVID patients were identified as American Indiana and another 2 percent were identified as either Hispanic, Asian or another race/ethnicity.

Each week since that period of mid-summer equilibrium, the number of COVID-19 infections among white people has far outpaced the number in black people, sometimes nearly double the number in a given week.

The number of black COVID-19 cases as a percentage of the black population is still greater than that of the white population.

Through Nov. 29 statistics from the Mississippi Department of Health, 44,711 black residents in Mississippi had confirmed COVID-19, while 51,309 white residents had tested positive for the virus.

The overall population, however, is more white than black, approximately 37.5% black and 57.5% white.

Working the math to create a cases-per-100,000-residents statistic reveals 3,974 cases per 100,000 black Mississippians vs. 2,990 cases per 100,000 white residents.

While the recent trends have shown a marked shift in the new cases becoming more prevalent in white Mississippians than in black Mississippians, the virus does not see color and it’s killed both black and white Mississippians.

Dobbs issued a warning to Mississippians Thursday on social media: “Protect yourself and your family! All residents of Mississippi should avoid any social gathering (non-essential) that includes individuals outside of the nuclear family or household.”

Mississippi reported Thursday an additional 2,168 new cases and 28 deaths. That brings the state’s total cases to 159,036 and 3,879 deaths.