Monday, July 13, 2020
The rampant spread of coronavirus across Mississippi has finally triggered new restrictions from Gov. Tate Reeves for the 13 counties with the heaviest spikes in COVID-19 over recent weeks. As of Monday morning, Hinds, Rankin, Madison, Claiborne, Desoto, Grenada, Harrison, Jackson, Jefferson, Quitman, Sunflower, Washington and Wayne County must follow additional restrictions for businesses and individuals in public.
The additional restrictions follow a week of enormous growth of COVID-19 in both case counts and hospitalizations. Friday’s report from the Mississippi State Department of Health included the second instance of more than 1,000 cases in a single day. Today, MSDH reported 393 new cases of COVID-19 and one additional death, though reports from Sundays have typically shown fewer cases due to lower reporting.
Hospitalization data are less clear, with only provisional data provided through July 10. The last numbers MSDH made available show hospitalizations at an all-time high on July 9, with 711 confirmed infections and 270 suspected. ICU usage, too, has reached a new peak at 205.
Businesses are expected to follow all guidelines from the MSDH and the Centers for Disease Control. Employers must provide employees with daily COVID-19 screenings and hand sanitizer. Employees unable to maintain a consistent, 6-foot distance from one another must wear face coverings. For retail outlets specifically, all employees coming into contact with the public, as well as all customers, must wear a mask at all times. The executive order explicitly specifies that both nose and mouth must be covered.
Read breaking coverage of COVID-19 in Mississippi, plus safety tips, cancellations, more in the JFP's archive.
Reeves’ new order heavily limits gatherings. For the 13 counties the new restrictions cover, the lax guidelines allowing up to 100 Mississippians to gather outdoors with social distancing are gone. Now, groups of no more than 10 are permitted indoors, and up to 20 outdoors, regardless of ability to social distance. At any public gatherings without proper social distancing, attendees must wear masks.
The capacity restrictions do not apply to businesses previously covered by similar limitations: restaurants and retail outlets are still limited to half their max capacity, even if in excess of 20 people.
Elective Medical Procedures Ended Statewide
State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs enacted his own order this morning, banning all elective medical procedures requiring overnight hospitalization for a minimum of one week. No list of counties accompanies this order. All Mississippi hospitals are expected to follow the Mississippi State Department of Health’s new guidelines, intended to protect the dwindling supply of health care professionals and ICU capacity across the state.
The move comes after several weeks of rapidly escalating warnings about the integrity of the hospital system. Dobbs first warned of an impending threat to Mississippi’s hospital system in an interview with the Jackson Free Press, stressing that victims of heart attacks and car crashes could expect limited access to critical medical care in the coming fall surge
Days later, at an MSDH press conference after the state’s first report of more than 1,000 new cases of COVID-19 in a single day, Dobbs updated his estimate to be merely weeks away, based on devastating uphill trends in all of the most concerning metrics of viral spread.
Less than two weeks later, those fears came to pass, with five of the state’s largest hospitals reaching absolute capacity in their intensive care units, and seven more rapidly approaching their limits.
Read the JFP’s coverage of COVID-19 at jacksonfreepress.com/covid19. Get more details on preventive measures here. Email state reporter Nick Judin at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @nickjudin.