Thursday, November 5, 2020
Mississippi’s brief respite from the national coronavirus spike may well be over today, as the State Department of Health announces 1,612 new cases of COVID-19. That number is the third highest single-day report since the pandemic first arrived in Mississippi, and the largest peak since late July at the height of transmission.
The rolling seven-day average is now 757. Hospitalizations have not been updated since the Nov. 3 report, which showed a bloated but stable presence, even as seasonal factors like the flu limit overall hospital capacity.
The increasing numbers—and the heightened community transmission of the virus across Mississippi—are visible in other statistics as well. MSDH’s most recent reports of coronavirus transmission in the state’s public-school system shows 401 COVID-positive students and 8,450 students quarantined between Oct. 26 and Oct. 30. That, like the week before it, is the highest degree of exposure since schools reopened in August.
State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers told the Jackson Free Press in a Nov. 4 interview that syndromic surveillance and emergency department monitoring are holding steady. “If we stay where we are, it’s not looking overwhelming,” Byers said. “But our concern is what’s around the corner.”
That comment is especially concerning in light of today’s report. Mississippi is not alone in worrisome new reports of COVID-19. The U.S. is on track for unmitigated spread in virtually every state. On Wednesday, 102,591 new reports of coronavirus emerged, a stunning new record for America, setting the table for catastrophic community transmission during the coming winter.
Byers said the primary concern ahead of the holiday season is close-knit gatherings. The state epidemiologist lamented the cyclical nature of the outbreak returning again and again in different settings. “Early on, we had a lot of transmission in long-term-care facilities,” Byers said. “Then in some businesses. Then we saw (clusters) in churches and weddings. Now we’re starting to see transmission in small gatherings again. We just keep going full circle.”
During the interview, Byers reflected on the seemingly endless struggle to maintain vigilance against the virus. “I know for folks who are out there living their lives now, it feels like this is going to be forever,” he said. “Where’s the light at the end of the tunnel? When is this going to loosen up for us? When can we go back to normalcy in our lives?”
The state’s top epidemiologist stressed that a vaccine is coming and that continued dedication to the cause of protecting “our brothers and sisters” can make all the difference. “If we can just find some consistency in all of our actions, I think we can demonstrate (how to) reduce transmission, save the people who are most vulnerable, and (protect) hospital capacity,” Byers said.
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.