New variant strains of COVID-19 found in Mississippi, state reports

Published 9:38 pm Thursday, May 27, 2021

Additional cases of two variant strains of COVID-19 have been found in Mississippi, the state Health Department said Thursday.

Officials said 10 additional cases of the variant that originated in South Africa have been identified in the state, bringing the total to 12. The new cases are from outbreaks in two long-term care facilities — one in Forrest County and one in Covington County.

The cases were described as “breakthrough” illnesses in “fully vaccinated older individuals.”

“The majority of these cases had minimal to no symptoms, however, two required hospitalizations and one person died,” the department said in a news release.

“Although one death is extremely unfortunate, the fact that most of these cases have had minimal to no symptoms in highly vulnerable individuals is extremely encouraging,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers. “The vaccines currently available provide excellent protection against severe disease. While these illnesses are caused by variant strains, the outcomes of all these cases would likely be much more severe if they were not vaccinated.”

The department said 554 COVID-19 variant cases had been reported in Mississippi as of May 21, most of which are the UK variant. The department also identified three cases of Indian-origin variant.

Meanwhile, Mississippi’s second-largest school district is planning on 100% in-person learning during the coming academic year, after having classes online for more than half of the current school year because of the pandemic.

Jackson Public Schools Superintendent Errick Greene said some students had a harder time learning from home.

“Our early learners require more individualized instruction, that’s just really difficult to provide virtually,” Greene told WJTV. “Some of our scholars faced serious behavioral, social, and emotional challenges due to the long periods of isolation.”

As for the change in school policy, to enter any building, people will still have their temperatures taken, and they must wear masks. Sports are expected to pick back up, but the Jackson schools will require each person at indoor events to wear a mask.

“I want to see all sports come back,” said Cameron Frank, an upcoming junior at Forest Hill High School. “Football, basketball, everything else for that matter.”

Isolation rooms will be set up for any students who arrive with symptoms or get sick during the day. The district has enough laptops to give one to each student if they catch COVID-19. Classrooms and school buses will have deep cleanings daily.