State officials are changing the game plan for Mississippi’s coronavirus response by placing limits on gatherings in all counties, limiting hospital capacity and attendance at sporting events, among other measures starting Friday, Gov. Tate Reeves announced.

“All of these measures are important, and I hope that the people of Mississippi will make an honest effort to participate in slowing the spread of the virus,” Reeves said  Wednesday.

Indoor gatherings are restricted to 10 people when social distancing cannot be observed, and all outdoor gatherings are limited to 50.

Reeves said masks are still required in all schools as well. Indoor sporting events will be limited to four spectators per student participant or 250 total, whichever is less, and indoor arenas are limited to the lesser of 10% capacity or 1,000 people.

Restaurants are limited to 10 people per group and all tables must be spaced six feet apart.

In order to continue performing elective surgeries, hospitals must keep 10% of their capacity reserved for COVID-19 patients.

Among hospitals with too many patients, Reeves said elective surgeries could be  halted.

“This is the first place I am going to tighten,” he said.

“We have seen about the same compliance of this order as the general population on wearing masks. That is to say, most are trying, but they are not strictly adhering to the rules.”

Reeves has placed 54 of Mississippi’s 82 counties under a mask  mandate based on thir rising infections, Amite, Franklin, Lawrence and Lincoln counties among them.

When asked about his forthcoming governor’s mansion Christmas party, Reeves said there would only be 10 people in the building at a time and the outside would be open to promote social distancing, adding that the party would be “completely in compliance to the ordinance.”

Reeves butted heads with reporters who said the party means the governor is not following his own advice he and State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs laid out.

Reeves said he agreed that people should not have any gatherings if they can help it, but there has to be a safe way to get some normalcy to the year and the tours he plans for the governor’s mansion during the holidays

“You can have sense of normalcy while at the same time recognizing the virus,” he said. “There is no perfect answer. The virus is going to virus. It is going to spread.”

Dobbs said inviting friends or family over is not the same as what Reeves plans for the governor’s mansion, calling the governor’s Christmas party — where masks will be required —  a safer event.

Still, he continued to press for Mississippians to avoid gathering in groups, spoiling holiday party plans.  

“I am the ultimate party killer now. No one wants me to go anywhere,” he said.

On the vaccine front, Dobbs said there will be about 25,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine in the state in the next few weeks, noting that the first doses will go to high-contact health care workers along with nursing home patients and workers.

Dobbs said the vaccine is much like the shingles vaccine, and there will be some arm pain and possible some fatigue, adding that he is willing to deal with those minor side effects. He said the vaccine has a 95% efficacy rate among all ages, races and genders.

“I think if we get enough vaccine over the winter, I think we could round the corner,” he said. “We are going to be dealing with this for a while.”

In other virus news, Pike County had its highest single-day number of cases ever Wednesday, reporting 43 cases for a total of 1,795 since the beginning of the pandemic.

The state added a record 2,746 cases Wednesday for a total 170,672 with 24 deaths for a total of 4,004 since the beginning of the pandemic.

Amite County rose by 16 cases to 675, Franklin County went up by 17 to 423, Lawrence County reported seven cases for 788 total, Lincoln County added 25 cases for 2,132 total, Walthall County went up by 10 cases to 841 and Wilkinson County rose by six cases to 641.

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