Wednesday, March 25, 2020
The following story is updated to reflect the four COVID-19 deaths the Mississippi State Department of Health reported throughout today, March 25, 2020.
The Mississippi State Department of Health reported deaths of three men—from Holmes, Webster and Wilkinson counties, as well as a woman from Tunica County throughout the day from coronavirus, bringing the state's total to five deaths. The Holmes County man, age 60 to 65, is one of seven reported cases in his county, which is along the southern end of the Mississippi Delta. The Webster County man, age 65 to 70 gentleman, is one of two reported cases in the north Mississippi county. The Wilkinson County man, age 85 to 90, is one of five cases reported in the southwest Mississippi county. The Tunica woman, age 75 to 80, is one of three cases in the northwest Mississippi county.
MSDH announced the first death on March 19—Bay St. Louis barber Howard “Fade” Pickens, who was in his 60s.
Confirmed COVID-19 cases in Mississippi rose to 377 today, a 364% increase over the 80 cases reported last Friday. Hinds, DeSoto and Harrison counties are still the top three counties for publicly reported virus cases, showing hot spots in central, northern and southern Mississippi, respectively. MSDH reported 20 cases for Rankin County and 17 in Madison County, which join Hinds in the greater capital-city region.
Three new Mississippi counties joined the growing list infected today: Prentiss, Calhoun and Amite.
Mississippi’s four male deaths track Internationally with COVID-19 data, with more men dying from the novel coronavirus than women. However, MSDH’s demographic figures, last updated March 24, have consistently shown more women with COVID-19 in Mississippi than men. One physician who tracks pandemic trends, who asked that his name be withheld, told the Jackson Free Press that this gender variation, among others, could mean that the infection in men at least may be undercounted in Mississippi, perhaps due to the limited testing available in Mississippi and the U.S. as a whole. Tests are only available to Mississippians with a 100.4-degree fever and severe cough or chest pain.
MSDH is also reporting age patterns among Mississippi’s cases to date. As of yesterday, its reported cases show 143 people infected over the age of 60 and 58 cases in their 50s.
Still, MSDH’s charts show many infected younger people, showing enough serious symptoms to qualify for testing in Mississippi: 64 cases in their 40s, 50 in their 30s, 55 from age 18 to 29, and six children under age 18. As of March 24, 31% were known to be hospitalized. Today’s new 57 cases are not included in those demographics, updated yesterday.
MSDH reported today that 1,945 people have been tested, not including those tested in private labs, although the confirmed cases do include them. That means that the State of Mississippi has tested .065% of Mississippi’s population, or less than one-tenth of 1%.
The lack of available testing also means that non-symptomatic Mississippians can easily be spreading the virus when they are around other people and out in public. The need to “flatten the curve” to reduce the spread and help keep the medical system from being overloaded, especially in rural areas where hospitals are crippled due to lack of Medicaid expansion, exploded in Mississippi over the weekend due to reports around the state of crowded beaches, flea markets, restaurants (even with communal dining and buffets) and auto auctions.
That led over the weekend to calls for Gov. Tate Reeves to issue a consistent executive order for all non-essential workers to “shelter at home,” much as Louisiana and other states have done to try to curb the rise in cases. But he flatly rejected that call in a nod to the business community.
In Mississippi, some mayors and other local officials have issued their own orders in the absence of a state mandate to protect people locally, preferring to take a wait-and-see approach through much of yesterday, even as the MSDH reported the most cases in one day to date, at 71.
Read breaking coverage of COVID-19 in Mississippi, plus safety tips, cancellations, more in the JFP's archive.
However, Jackson Free Press reporter Nick Judin reported last night that Reeves’ order, released late in the day, instead created an exhaustive list of “essential” businesses and organizations that do not have to close, including car dealerships, “offices” and religious facilities, among many others. On Friday, MSDH had recommended that people not attend church, funerals or weddings.
Reeves’ order also explicitly supersedes local mandates to protect Mississippians.
Donna Ladd is the editor-in-chief of the Jackson Free Press. Email her story tips to [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @donnerkay. Read full COVID-19 cover at jacksonfreepress.com/covid19. Become a JFP VIP Club member to support our journalism at jacksonfreepress.com/vip.
Read the JFP’s coverage of COVID-19 at jacksonfreepress.com/covid19. Get more details on preventive measures here. Read about announced closings and delays in Mississippi here. Read MEMA’s advice for a COVID-19 preparedness kit here.
Email information about closings and other vital related logistical details to [email protected].
Email state reporter Nick Judin, who is covering COVID-19 in Mississippi, at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @nickjudin. Seyma Bayram is covering the outbreak inside the capital city and in the criminal-justice system. Email her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @seymabayram0.