Natchez siblings died of virus days apart, coroner says

NATCHEZ, Miss. (AP) — A sister and brother in Natchez died of the coronavirus within days of each other, Adams County Coroner James Lee said.

A 73-year-old woman died of COVID-19 and her 69-year-old brother died days later, Lee told the Natchez Democrat.

“I’ve seen an increase in COVID deaths in Adams County in the past month and it's very scary to me,” Lee told the Democrat earlier this week. Lee said his 25-year-old granddaughter was hospitalized with the coronavirus. "I won’t lie. I’m very afraid of this virus and what I see. I just wish we'd take this thing seriously.”

Mississippi is one of the top 20 states with the most new cases per capita in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University data analyzed by The Associated Press. The data was evaluated over a 14-day period.

Mississippi's state Department of Health said Friday that Mississippi, with a population of about 3 million, has had more than 103,000 reported cases and at least 3,000 deaths from COVID-19 as of Thursday evening. That’s an increase of 862 confirmed cases and six deaths from numbers reported the day before, with the deaths occurring between Sept. 19 and Oct. 8 and recorded later using death certificates.

Officials said 40 people have died of the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic in Adams County, which has a population of around 30,000. There have been close to 1,000 total confirmed virus cases in the county.

Like other counties, Adams County officials have been tasked with deciding whether or not to maintain or enact a mask mandate in lieu of the statewide mask mandate that was ended by Gov. Tate Reeves on Sept. 30.

Leaders in the cities of Jackson, Tupelo and Meridian have decided to maintain a mask mandate in public spaces. As of earlier this week, Adams County still had a mandate in effect at least until Oct. 31, with officials divided on the issue.

Adams County Supervisor Ricky Grady said it's best for the safety of the community to keep the mandate in place, according to the Natchez Democrat.

“As community leaders, it is our job to try and keep everyone safe in our community. ... People are listening to the governor and only hearing what they want to hear," Grady said.

Supervisor Wes Middleton said although he thinks masks are a good idea, he doesn't think people should be mandated to wear them.

"I believe our residents are smart enough and educated enough to do what they need to do to protect themselves and everyone around them,” Middleton said, according to the Democrat.

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Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.