Pike County saw its fifth and sixth COVID-19 deaths of the week on Thursday as the toll rose to 21, and Gov. Tate Reeves announced he was imposing stricter public health guidelines on counties with high infection rates.
“Mississippi is in a fight for our lives,” Reeves said Thursday. “We need individuals to step up — please wear a mask, and help us stop the spread.”
And officials reported four new infections in Pike County, bringing the total to 470 since March 11.
A mobile coronavirus testing clinic is returning to the Pike County Health Department at 115 E. Presley Blvd. in McComb from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday. Testing is by appointment through the Mississippi Department of Health and the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Contact MSDH or visit the department’s website to consult a physician for coronavirus screening.
Neighboring Lincoln County also reported another death, the 35th there among 509 infected patients since the outbreak began.
Statewide, health officials announced 703 new infections on Thursday in addition to 16 deaths.
Reeves announced enhanced restrictions would go into effect Monday morning in 13 counties experiencing severe outbreaks. They include Hinds, DeSoto, Harrison, Rankin, Jackson, Washington, Sunflower, Grenada, Claiborne, Madison, Jefferson, Wayne and Quitman counties on the list.
Reeves said citizens must wear a mask when at a business or participating in public gatherings. Indoor events are limited to 10 people and outdoor events are limited to 20.
The orders may be extended to include other counties as the number of sick and dead surge throughout the state. And Reeves said any county that identifies 200 new infections within two weeks or experiences a per capita rate of infection of 500/100,000 people may be further restricted.
Pike County’s per capita rate of infection was abut 101 per 100,000 this week. It has added 149 cases in the past two weeks.
“Our numbers are getting worse,” Reeves said. “We need your cooperation.”
The number of infections identified in Mississippi over the previous month nearly matches the number identified between March and early June.
Health officials recorded approximately 14,000 infections since June 8, compared to about 19,000 infections between March 11 and June 8.
State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said June was a turning point in the pandemic in Mississippi that overwhelmed its hospitals, killed many in long-term care facilities and sickened thousands more.
“The numbers continue to grow,” Byers said. “We continue to see an impact against our most vulnerable populations.”
If trends continue, Reeves said he will consider enforcing stricter lockdowns across wider areas of Mississippi, and that those restrictions will look similar in practice to the ones imposed on Attalla, Leake and Neshoba counties in April.
Though restrictions imposed on businesses and public gatherings may help to signal the severity of the outbreak, enforcement of such regulations is notably absent in Mississippi.
“We have specific guidelines in place in restaurants and in bars that ensure that social distancing is observed,” Reeves said. “We need our fellow Mississippians to adhere to the guidelines that are in place.”