Mississippi Sees Big Jump In Covid-19 Positive Test Results

Dr. Alan Jones, associate vice chancellor for clinical affairs and COVID-19 clinical response leader at the University of Mississippi Medical School, holds on to the face mask he wears while on campus as he explains at a news conference, Friday, July 16, 2021, in Jackson, Miss., that the implementation of the new COVID-19 vaccination policy, which encourages all employees, students and anyone who works or learns in a UMMC facility or clinic to get fully vaccinated, or wear a N95 face mask all the time, was developed in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Mississippi State Department of Health recommendations. The changes will go into effect July 26, 2021 and will be phased in over three months, beginning with managers/supervisors, followed by direct-patient-care employees. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Dr. Alan Jones, associate vice chancellor for clinical affairs and COVID-19 clinical response leader at the University of Mississippi Medical School, holds on to the face mask he wears while on campus as he explains at a news conference, Friday, July 16, 2021, in Jackson, Miss., that the implementation of the new COVID-19 vaccination policy, which encourages all employees, students and anyone who works or learns in a UMMC facility or clinic to get fully vaccinated, or wear a N95 face mask all the time, was developed in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Mississippi State Department of Health recommendations. The changes will go into effect July 26, 2021 and will be phased in over three months, beginning with managers/supervisors, followed by direct-patient-care employees. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi health officials reported Monday that the state is seeing its highest number of new COVID-19 cases in months as the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus continues to spread.

The state is also experiencing a sharp increase in the percentage of positive tests.

“COVID-19 testing has jumped statewide, and positive results are a LOT higher. Our positivity rate is now the same as it was during the worst of COVID-19 in January. Delta is hitting hard," the Mississippi State Department of Health posted on Twitter.

The department said on its website Monday that 3,608 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Mississippi from Friday through Sunday. That compares to 2,326 reported from Friday through Sunday a week earlier — numbers that were highest in the state since February.

The increase in cases is happening as some schools are starting classes. The Mississippi Association of Educators issued a letter Monday asking Republican Gov. Tate Reeves to set a mask mandate for schools. His mandate expired when the previous school year ended.

“Educators are thrilled to be heading back into school buildings after an incredibly challenging year — any educator will tell you there is no place we’d rather be,” the teachers' union said. “But educators and students deserve to teach and learn in a safe setting without fearing for their health or the health of their families.”

Thousands of people are gathering for the Neshoba County Fair — a 10-day event where families and friends live in colorful cabins, visit on front porches and watch musical performances, horse races and political speeches.

The fair was canceled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Reeves is scheduled to speak there Thursday.

Dr. Dan Edney, the state Health Department's chief medical officer, said during a news conference last week that people over 65, even if they are fully vaccinated “need to double think” whether to attend the Neshoba County Fair or other big events.

“If you're going to be in any crowd setting, not just the Neshoba County Fair but any crowd setting, you need to try not to be in the middle of things and be as distant as you can, (be in the) open air as much as you can, wear a mask and be vaccinated," Edney said.

As of Monday, the Health Department said Mississippi has had 336,788 confirmed cases of the virus, with 7,508 deaths from it, since the start of the pandemic in the spring of 2020.

Mississippi has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the nation.

The department said 40,245 doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered in Mississippi during the week that ended Saturday — the highest number in the state since early May. The increase came as state health officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs and other health officials were imploring people to get vaccinated because of the rapid spread of the delta variant of the virus.

Last week's vaccination numbers were more than double the 19,956 doses administered in Mississippi during the week that ended July 1. That was the week the state had its lowest vaccination numbers since January.

The Health Department on Monday also said that the delta variant of the virus is causing an increase in hospitalizations of younger patients.

“We are in a strikingly different situation from a year ago, when severe COVID-19 occurred mostly in those over 50. Now 43% of those hospitalized for COVID-19 ... are under 50,” the department wrote on Twitter.

In late July 2020, the department said 19% of those hospitalized for COVID-19 in Mississippi were younger than 50.

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