Expressing immense frustration, Gov. Tate Reeves and State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs lashed out Monday against the spread of misinformation and the refusal to follow public health guidelines.
“If we continue to play chicken with this pandemic, we’re going to get burned over and over again,” Dobbs said.
Reeves said the choice not to wear a mask is a selfish one.
“By wearing a mask, you can protect yourself and protect others,” Reeves said. “It is not foolproof, but it can go a long way towards helping.”
Enhanced restrictions upon 13 hard-hit counties went into effect Monday morning and included orders to wear a mask in public or while shopping and banned large indoor and outdoor gatherings.
But those restrictions are only as effective as long as people obey them, he said.
“If nobody adheres to it, there’s nothing we can do about it,” he said. “Every Mississippian has to get it through their own head that this is the right thing to do.”
State health officials identified 393 new coronavirus infections and another death on Monday, which is a far cry from recently reported figures that crested 1,000 cases in a day several times last week. However, the dip was attributed to lower laboratory activity on Sunday.
Meanwhile, hospitals around the state are overwhelmed, with people turned away at emergency rooms or sent out of state for treatment.
Reeves said the issue will worsen.
“This is the worst that it has ever been for the spread of cases in our state,” he said. “It is the most stress on our hospital system that we have seen to date.”
Dobbs said the time to prepare has passed.
“There are four hospitals currently with no ICU beds available” in the Jackson metro area, Dobbs said. “In the state, there are eight hospitals with no ICU capacity.”
Dobbs said a rumor purporting that individuals who are tested for coronavirus multiple times caused inflation in health department statistics on the infection is dead-wrong.
“Every time you test someone, one person is one case — there is no inflation on the number of cases,” Dobbs said. “It’s coronavirus that’s driving up the numbers itself.”
Independence Day weekend likely influenced a major resurgence of coronavirus in Mississippi, Dobbs said, and Reeves added that health experts believe the virus circulating throughout the state is a different, more contagious strain than what initially took hold.
“On July 8, we had by far the largest number of people reporting they were ill, which was not surprising,” Dobbs said. “That was just four days after the 4th of July.”
There were seven new infections identified in Pike County over the weekend for a total of 511, and 20 deaths since March 11.
“Make no mistake, we are in the middle of a spike here in Mississippi,” Reeves said. “I believe it’s coming for every corner of this country, but this is our time.”
An MSDH drive-thru coronavirus testing clinic at the Pike County Health Department received more than 20 cars in the first 30 minutes of testing Monday morning. A National Guardsman at the site on Presley Boulevard said over 137 people were screened for testing ahead of time.
Reeves said buy-in from the community is badly needed.
“Just a few short weeks ago, we all took coronavirus at least somewhat seriously, everyone was willing to do something,” he said.
Restrictions taken at the beginning of the outbreak were successful and asked Mississippians to return to that mindset, Reeves said.
“We were able to slow the spread considerably,” he said. “Because of that, we did not find what could have been a tragic outcome during that time.”
And Reeves said a popular conspiracy theory is that Mississippians are better-off allowing infection to spread because it will be beneficial in the long-run.
“Herd immunity, as a solution, does not work — unless you’re OK with hundreds of thousands of Mississippians in need of medical care who are unable to get it,” he said.