Mississippi health officials say rising coronavirus cases means vulnerable should avoid large indoor groups

Published 10:53 pm Friday, July 9, 2021

The Mississippi Department of Health on Friday advised people 65 and older and those with chronic underlying medical conditions to refrain from attending indoor mass social gatherings in coming weeks because of a rising number of coronavirus cases in the state.

Those cases include the highly transmittable delta variant of the virus.

“Our collective under-vaccination in the state has put us all at risk, especially the most vulnerable,” State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said Friday during a virtual news briefing.

Mississippi ranks among the last U.S. states for the total number of people vaccinated against COVID-19 at 31% fully vaccinated, according to the state Department of Health. Just over 996,500 people in Mississippi are fully vaccinated.

Department of Health officials advised Friday that vulnerable people should avoid indoor mass gatherings whether or not they are vaccinated, through at least July 26. They also advised that people who are not vaccinated wear a mask when in public settings.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said there has been a “modest” increase in cases and hospitalizations from coronavirus in recent weeks, most of which are delta variant cases. He said he expects that tendency to increase in coming weeks if people refuse to exercise caution.

“It’s a disturbing and concerning trend that we’re seeing,” he said. “We’re certainly moving in the wrong direction.”

Dobbs agreed. He said people are going to be at risk for a long time.

“I don’t think that we’re going to have some miraculous increase in our vaccination rates over the next few weeks,” he said. “People are going to die needlessly. ”

The state health officer said the best decision officials can make is to recommend people in the most vulnerable groups protect themselves.

“Since we collectively can’t do what it takes to protect the state as a whole, we want to at least give individuals the best guidance so that they can survive the COVID pandemic, so that they can get through this delta surge that we’re facing right now,” he said.