- Mississippi positivity and hospitalization rates are increasing as the coronavirus ravages regions like the South and Midwest.
- Republican Governor Tate Reeves issued a statewide mask mandate on Tuesday.
As Florida’s coronavirus positivity rate and daily confirmed test counts are steadily declining after weeks of increases in July, another state is on track to surpass it as the hardest-hit state.
The most recent state health data from Mississippi shows that the number of new COVID-19 cases is increasing, with 1,074 new confirmed cases reported on Aug. 3, bringing the current state total to 62,199. The Clarion-Ledger reports that the state also saw a record number of fatalities associated with coronavirus infections on Friday, coming in at 52. A close 42 new deaths were reported on Aug. 3.
Along with these figures is a high positivity rate, standing at approximately 25.8 percent.
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Experts working in the state are able shed light on the dire hospitalization situation.
“Our ICUs are full...we have been full for several weeks,” Louann Woodward, the vice chancellor of the University of Mississippi Medical Center said to Rachel Maddow on MSNBC Tuesday evening. She noted that as hospitals across the state look for support to accommodate a large influx of patients, some are forced to send patients out of state for treatment.
Woodward says that because of the high number of residents with preexisting conditions, Mississippi is particularly vulnerable to severe coronavirus infections. Comorbidities like obesity, hypertension and stroke are common among Mississippians, Woodward says, — all of which are risk factors listed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for a severe or fatal coronavirus case.
State residents between the ages of 60 to 69 compose the majority of the hospitalizations and continue to increase, composing about 996 inpatients. Mississippians in the 70 to 79 age bracket are recording the largest number of deaths, with 461 out of a state total of 1,753.
These trends prompted Gov. Tate Reeves (R) to issue a new executive order on Tuesday requiring everyone in the state to wear a mask when venturing in public. This is a sharp departure from his stance on masks in July, where he encouraged state residents to wear masks but did not issue a universal mandate requiring it.
Reeves told reporters that he only issued the mandate because state residents were already largely complying with the public health practice.
“The reason we issued the mask mandate statewide today is because I believe that a large number of Mississippians are actually participating in slowing down the spread of the virus," Reeves said. "They are doing exactly what they’ve asked them to do, and I’m proud of that.”
Additionally, bars in Mississippi have a curfew of 11 p.m., encouraging people to avoid public gatherings and stay home.
Woodward says these public health updates are encouraging.
“I think the right decisions are being made at this point,” she said.
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