Mississippi cautioned residents aged 65 and older and those with chronic medical conditions to avoid indoor mass gatherings whether or not they are vaccinated against the coronavirus.
The Mississippi State Department of Health issued on Friday an updated set of recommended precautions for residents to take through July 26, including having the vulnerable stay away from indoor gatherings.
The department pointed to “a significant rise” of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, as well as the “rapid increase in delta variant cases and outbreaks” amid “the low overall vaccination rate” in the state.
Officials also recommend that all Mississippi residents aged 12 and older get the COVID-19 vaccine, and all unvaccinated residents wear a mask in indoor public settings.
The raised concern comes as the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concluded that the highly transmissible delta variant became the dominant strain in the U.S. during the two-week period ending July 3.
Amid the rapid spread of the delta strain, other local governments have adjusted their COVID-19 guidelines. Los Angeles County called last week for all people to wear masks indoors if they don't know the vaccination status of everyone around them. St. Louis and Jefferson counties in Missouri followed suit days later.
Experts have warned that places with low vaccination rates are most at risk to outbreaks. Mississippi has the lowest percentage of residents who have received at least one dose at 47.2 percent, according to data from The New York Times.
Mississippi has seen a 91 percent increase in COVID-19 cases and a 34 percent increase in hospitalizations, although its death rate has remained flat, according to the Times.