Southwest Mississippi has a low disease burden compared to other areas of the state battling COVID-19, state health data shows.
Pike County added two coronavirus infections Thursday but none Friday and neighboring Lincoln County tallied another death and 12 infections among nursing home residents.
Officials have identified 188 infections, 11 deaths and 14 cases among nursing home residents in Pike County since March 11. In Lincoln County, the total increased to 231 Friday and 19 deaths with 81 cases among nursing home residents.
Amite County added another case, also a resident of a nursing home or other long-term care facility, and Walthall County added two cases for the first time over a week Thursday for a total of 48 there.
Southwest Mississippi counties are considerably less hard-hit than areas of the state near the Tennessee border and in east-central Mississippi, where outbreaks among agricultural workers hit communities hard.
Pike County has recorded a per-capita rate of infection of about 470 people per 100,000 population.
That’s higher than Amite County, which has experienced a rate of about 389 per 100,000, and significantly higher than in Franklin County, which has recorded 282 per 100,000.
Also higher than the 318 per 100,000 people recorded in Walthall County.
But neighboring Lincoln County, which continues to battle outbreaks among residents and employees of long-term care facilities, has a much higher rate of infection at 649 per 100,000 people. Lawrence County has recorded 642 cases per 100,000 people, albeit with only 82 identified there.
By comparison, the hardest hit counties in Mississippi — Lauderdale, Scott, Neshoba and other contiguous counties — have recorded infections rates ranging from about 800 per 100,000 people in Lauderdale County to over 2,000 infections per 100,000 people in Scott County. which has the highest disease burden in the state.
“I encourage people to get testing if they need it, if they’re experiencing symptoms of coronavirus or they think they might have been exposed,” State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said Thursday.
Dobbs said the situation statewide is improving.
“Looking at our rolling averages, we have seen some decrease. Over the past several weeks it has moderated. We will continue to have cases, and we knew we would. We continue to have transmission within the community,” Dobbs said. “We’re testing more people so we’re going to find new cases.”
Dobbs said widespread testing has already identified a high rate of asymptomatic carriers, or people who have coronavirus but don’t feel sick, throughout Mississippi, but did not provide an exact figure or an estimate.
“The individual actions that people take in following the guidelines and following the rules is going to make a difference,” Dobbs said. “If people do these things that they know how to do, living in the community can be done safely. We all understand that we have to get back to some sort of normal activity, it’s just got to be sort of a new normal.”
Gov. Tate Reeves said the virus isn’t going away anytime soon.
“We do believe it’s likely that the virus will come back in the fall, to some level, and we’ll have to be prepared for it and we’re working with the State Department of Health to prepare for it,” Reeves said. “It’s likely that the virus is going to be amongst us and we’re going to have to be smart, we’re going to have to social distance.”