Officials are continuing to urge residents to not let their guard down as Mississippi’s delta variant fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be on the decline, with fewer hospitalizations and cases being reported.
Gov. Tate Reeves announced Tuesday that he’s extending the state of emergency he originally issued at the onset of the pandemic in the spring of 2020 by another 30 days.
“This extension will continue to facilitate the state’s COVID-19 response including expanded access to telemedicine and leaving other response options open,” Reeves’s spokesperson Bailey Martin said in a statement Tuesday. “Once again, there will be no lockdowns or statewide mandates.”
The Mississippi State Department of Health reported 820 new cases on Tuesday, as well as 41 deaths and 57 ongoing outbreaks in long-term care facilities.
The number of daily cases represents a steep decline from the peak of 5,000 daily cases at the height of the fourth wave, but is still significantly higher compared to late spring and early summer, before the delta variant was a factor and daily cases were typically below 200.
The decline in cases can be seen locally as well. Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center had just seven patients confirmed with the virus late last week, down significantly from its average of 30-plus patients at the height of the wave in August and September.
No Pike County school has reported more than five new cases among students or employees in a month, or more than 20 students in quarantine.
“Stable cases but still too many deaths,” Mississippi’s State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs tweeted Tuesday. “We have lost too many to COVID in MS. We have the tools to prevent these deaths.”
The death rate, which health officials have called a lagging indicator of the pandemic, continues to be concerning.
Pike County hasn’t had a COVID-19 death since Oct. 5, when five people died of the virus, matching a record daily high. Still, less than two weeks into October, nine people have died from the virus in the county so far this month, which is half of September’s death count of 18 and more than August’s total of eight.
The state has had 496,132 cases and 9,874 deaths since the onset of the pandemic.
Of its nearly 3 million residents, 1,339,711 (44.2%) are fully vaccinated, placing the state at fifth from the bottom in vaccinations by state. Only Alabama, Wyoming, Idaho and West Virginia have a fewer share of residents who have yet to complete their shots.
And vaccination rates in Southwest Mississippi continue to gradually rise. Pike and Franklin counties both have 42% of the population vaccinated. Wilkinson County is the most fully vaccinated in the region, at 49%, followed by Lawrence County at 48%. Lincoln and Walthall County are both at 34%, and Amite County is the least vaccinated at 32%.