Mississippi governor extends his pandemic emergency order

Published 2:07 pm Thursday, August 12, 2021

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said Thursday that he is extending his state-of-emergency order that gives public health officials and other government leaders some flexibility in responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Republican governor said he would extend the order for 30 days. It had been set to expire Sunday.

“There will be no lockdowns and there will be no statewide mandates,” Reeves wrote on Twitter.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

He said extending the order will allow the state to continue coordinating the transfer of patients to hospitals where treatment is available. He also said it will keep options open for Mississippi National Guard members to be called back into service, if needed, for pandemic duties. Guard members spent months running COVID-19 vaccination drive-thru sites until Reeves ended that in mid-July.

Reeves issued his first pandemic order in March 2020, later adding and subtracting conditions such as business restrictions and mask orders aimed at slowing the spread of the virus. The last of his mask mandates disappeared when the 2020-21 school year ended.

The governor’s announcement Thursday happened shortly after Mississippi reported its largest single-day total of new COVID-19 cases, far exceeding a record set only two days earlier and indicating more challenges in coming days for already-strained hospitals.

The state Health Department reported 4,412 new cases of the virus Thursday, a 26% increase over the 3,488 cases it reported in the state Tuesday. The numbers Wednesday also exceeded 3,000.

Dr. Alan Jones, associate vice chancellor for clinical affairs at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, said the rapid increase in new cases is putting stress on the state hospital system, with few intensive care unit beds available in Mississippi.

“If we continue that trajectory, within the next five to seven to 10 says, I think we’re going to see failure of the hospital system in Mississippi,” Jones said during a news conference Wednesday. “Hospitals are full from Memphis to Gulfport, Natchez to Meridian.”

Officials announced Wednesday that Mississippi will open a 50-bed temporary field hospital and the federal government will send medical professionals to help treat patients as COVID-19 cases continue surging in a state with one of the lowest vaccination rates in the U.S.

The field hospital — on reserve for disasters — will be in a parking garage at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, and it could be open by Friday.

COVID-19 cases in Mississippi have risen sharply in recent weeks because of the highly contagious delta variant of the virus, and public health officials are imploring people to get vaccinated.

The state Health Department said 36% of Mississippi residents are fully vaccinated, compared to about 50% nationally. It also said that between July 13 and Wednesday in Mississippi, unvaccinated people made up 98% of those newly diagnosed with COVID-19, 90% of those hospitalized with it and 84% of those who died from it.

Mississippi has just under 3 million residents. The state Health Department has reported 376,124 cases of COVID-19 and 7,730 coronavirus-related deaths in the state since the pandemic started.