As daily average COVID-19 cases trend upward, Gov. Reeves calls seven-day averages “relatively flat”

Miss. Dept. of Health data appears to contradict Reeves’ remarks, but agency has yet to publicly comment
Updated: May. 27, 2020 at 7:56 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - As Gov. Tate Reeves gears up to completely reopen the state on Monday, data from the Department of Health suggests Mississippi still hasn’t reached its peak of coronavirus cases, with average daily cases Wednesday hitting their highest point since the pandemic began.

Reeves has called those seven-day averages of daily new cases “relatively flat," which seems to contradict MSDH’s own data.

As daily average COVID-19 cases trend upward, Gov. Reeves calls seven-day averages “relatively...
As daily average COVID-19 cases trend upward, Gov. Reeves calls seven-day averages “relatively flat”(WLBT)

3 On Your Side analyzed the data based on seven-day averages of new daily cases, a practice that Reeves and the state have referenced in the past as a way to account for unexpected drops and surges.

“We had a prolonged plateau where our cases have been relatively flat. Again, you can go up or down a hundred cases, or two hundred cases over a seven-day period on a rolling seven-day average, but we’ve been relatively flat for 60 days in Mississippi," Reeves said Tuesday.

While the graph does show a prolonged plateau, the state still has yet to get there, with Wednesday’s all-time high of 297 average daily COVID-19 cases indicating it could climb even higher.

From April 1 to May 27, our analysis shows average new cases increased by 200 per day.

On Wednesday, 3 On Your Side asked Reeves why his statements seemed to differ from his own health department.

“I think a 45 to 60 day plateau and a graph that is flat is saying the same thing. A plateau by definition is relatively flat," Reeves said. “I think when you look back over the last 45 or 60 days and you look at total numbers of new cases, we’re somewhere between 200 and 300 new cases per day on a seven-day rolling average for literally weeks and weeks and weeks on end."

3 On Your Side asked Dr. Alan Jones, chair of UMMC’s Department of Emergency Medicine, for his opinion -- not of the governor’s remarks, but the data itself -- and what it means for Mississippians.

He compared it more to a sine wave than a flat line.

“I would probably describe it more as a sine wave, just where you have not peaks and deep valleys, but hills and low points. If you look at it over time, perhaps there’s a linear increase,” Jones said. “It may look flat, it may be a slight increase. I think in an ideal situation, we would have seen really some significant decreases at this point.”

That lack of significant daily coronavirus case drops is concerning, too, Jones said.

However, that’s not the only factor to consider.

“The thing that we tend to look at the most is hospitalizations and ICU utilizations, and I think you can see from those data at the department of health that those numbers have stayed really fairly consistent," Jones said.

Reeves mentioned that, too, saying that the hospitalizations have stabilized over the course of the last several weeks.

Those are good signs, Jones said.

What’s the big picture?

Jones said we still may not have seen the worst from this first wave of COVID-19 cases.

“It may be that we just have these kind of sine waves, some increases, some decreases, some increases, some decreases, but at some point I think we’re going to see it spike up in some kind of way, and that’s something that we’re planning for," he said.

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