Mississippi hasn’t detected new COVID-19 strains yet, health officials say

Published 9:26 pm Friday, February 5, 2021

Health officials have not yet identified any cases of the new and highly contagious U.K. coronavirus variant in Mississippi, even as the variant has appeared in neighboring states, State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said Friday.

Six cases of the U.K. variant of the coronavirus were identified in Alabama, the Alabama Department of Health announced Thursday. One 35-year-old Alabama man was reported to have died of the variant earlier in the week.

Louisiana has identified at least five cases of the variant, and Georgia has reported 23.

Byers said Mississippi regularly sends samples of the coronavirus tests administered in the state to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, so they can search for variant cases.

“So far we haven’t identified one, but that doesn’t mean that we haven’t had any in Mississippi,” Byers said Friday during a virtual conversation with the Mississippi State Medical Association. “We just haven’t picked it up yet.”

Byers said the state plans to expand its surveillance of COVID-19 testing to more geographic locations in the state.

“We’re getting it into gear now so that we can hope to identify if there are variants in Mississippi,” he said.

More than 255,000 people in Mississippi have now received the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine and around 50,000 have received the first and second dose, according to data from the State Department of Health.

The state Health Department reported Friday that Mississippi had 1,210 new confirmed cases of the virus as of Thursday evening. The department also reported 40 deaths Friday, 22 of which happened between Jan. 18 and Thursday. The state has reported nearly 280,000 cases of the virus and 6,222 related deaths since the start of the pandemic.

People eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine can make an appointment at COVIDvaccine.umc.edu or by calling the COVID-19 call center at 1-877-978-6453.