Doctor: Despite false hype ‘COVID is killing Mississippians’ at record pace

Published 2:07 pm Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Mississippi’s top public health doctor said people are playing a deadly game when they listen to social media rumors rather than verified experts.

Dr. Thomas Dobbs, Mississippi State Health Officer, said he’s been discouraged to see the amount of misinformation circulating on social media about the virus and virus-related deaths, including people who accuse the health department of falsifying data to make the virus look more deadly than it really is, something Dobbs said is categorically false.

“These are real deaths. This isn’t some artifact of someone calling a death something else,” he said. “Here my lips speak this: People are dying from COVID. COVID is killing Mississippians. COVID is one of the leading causes of death in Mississippi.”

Mississippi surpassed its previous record for the highest ever number of coronavirus deaths reported in a single day Tuesday with 79 new deaths.

Dobbs said Mississippi may well surpass 1,000 deaths reported during the month of December, given the current rate of deaths.

“We’re all going to suffer,” Dobbs said Tuesday during a virtual briefing. “I think more and more people are seeing the impact on our families from personal experience.”

Mississippi reported a record 79 deaths Tuesday. Fifty-six of the people died at different times within the last 10 days and were identified as coronavirus-related fatalities later using death certificates, according to the Department of Health.

Dobbs said he could not share the names of the dead because of privacy laws. But he took a moment at the start Tuesday’s briefing to honor some of those 79 who died. He listed individuals by age, sex and race: A Black woman in her late 30s, an 84-year-old white man and a 52-year-old Black man among them.

“These are people, but for COVID, would be with us for next Christmas,” Dobbs said. “These are people who didn’t have to die.”

State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said the majority of transmission is still occurring in churches, at sporting events, social gatherings and intergenerational neighborhood events.

Dobbs pleaded with residents to avoid social gatherings with friends and extended family for Christmas. He warned specifically about gatherings with people from a mix of different ages.

Mississippi is reporting about 6,000 more deaths in the state this year than last year, Dobbs said.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.