Story at a glance:
- More than 18,800 students have tested positive for COVID-19 since August in Jackson, Miss.
- Forty-six percent of Mississippians 12 and older are fully vaccinated.
- Mississippi does not have a mask mandate for schools.
Since August, 18,825 students in Mississippi have tested positive for COVID-19, according to state data. In the last week alone, more than 15,000 students had to quarantine due to a COVID-19 exposure.
Teachers like Esther Newell told Business Insider, "The schools are chronically underfunded for decades, so I'm concerned about soap in the bathroom."
As Changing America previously reported, there have been surging coronavirus cases in Mississippi. State health officials requested a military ship in August from the Biden administration to prevent the collapse of its health care system.
Gov. Tate Reeves (R-Miss.) said at the time his state needed about 920 health care workers due to a labor shortage.
"Honestly, the real challenge is NOT the physical beds – hospital beds or ICU beds. The challenge is our hospitals may not have an adequate number of health care professionals (docs, nurses, respiratory therapists, etc.) to staff those beds," Reeves wrote on Facebook.
As cases surged in schools, a student in the eighth grade died from COVID-19 in August. Days earlier, Reeves said in a press conference that the virus only causes “sniffles” in people under the age of 18, according to Business Insider. The governor also speculated that one or two children have died from COVID-19 in his state; seven children have died of COVID-19, Business Insider reports.
Forty-six percent of people in Mississippi 12 years and older are fully vaccinated, according to state health data. The state does not have a mask mandate for schools, even though Reeves called for a statewide mandate in schools last year.
The governor has previously described mask guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as “foolish and harmful” and “not rational science,” Mississippi Today reports.
The governor stated last month that mask requirements should be left up to individual districts, according to Mississippi Today.
"I believe that local school boards, the parents ought to be heard," Reeves said in August, according to the outlet. "They (school boards) ought to open the floor and give the parents a chance to talk to their school board members because they are the elected officials."
Newell told Business Insider that she is concerned over the lack of public health measures around masks and vaccines in schools.
"There is no discussion around, at what point do we protect children over the economy," Newell told Insider. "It seems like a question [Reeves] is successfully avoiding, and every level of it is concerning to me."
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