Analysis: Daily average COVID-19 cases stabilizing, but volume of cases remains a concern

Updated: Sep. 28, 2020 at 10:36 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Over nearly two weeks, Mississippi’s daily average number of coronavirus cases has stabilized at much higher levels than health experts have hoped, according to a seven-day average of new case data from the state’s department of health.

That information shows average cases hovering between 412 and 512 since Sept. 10, with a brief uptick at the beginning of the month.

Since August, Gov. Tate Reeves told Mississippians at his COVID-19 briefings that social distancing guidelines and mask mandates would help flatten the state’s curve of new cases, but some health experts had hoped for a more significant drop in cases.

Instead, over the last two weeks, Mississippians testing positive for coronavirus have kept average new cases above 400 per day.

Dr. Mark Horne, who serves as president of the Mississippi State Medical Association, attributes that largely to continued community spread and impatience with the social distancing and mask requirements.

“They’re very tired of not being able to go and do the things that they want to to. The problem with COVID-19: it doesn’t get tired. We may be tired and think we’re finished with it, but it’s not finished with us. And it’s not going away," Horne said. "There is still community spread. It is still at a significant level. And all that it takes for us to surge again is for us to be less careful.”

Horne said he’s now afraid that since we’ve had cases dropping gradually for more than a month and hospitalizations now at manageable levels, people may let their guard down.

He believes Mississippi is in the eye of the COVID-19 storm.

“First part of the eye wall past us, we’re at lower numbers, it feels good. We come out, we check to see what’s going on," Horne said. "But right behind that is the worst part of the storm.”

Horne said other pandemics throughout history have shown these same tell-tale patterns.

Now, with colder weather approaching, people spending more time indoors, and flu season beginning in a matter of weeks, Horne thinks we could see a much stronger second wave.

“I know people continue to want to minimize it. And it’s true that it’s not nearly as lethal as we first thought. But it’s plenty lethal enough," Horne said. "There are great concerns in public health among public health officials and MSMA, those of us who spend a lot of time on COVID-19 issues. We all have great concerns about lifting up too quickly and allowing what is barely contained, to suddenly erupt. It’s a bit like a smoldering fire. And if you do walk away from it too quickly, it erupts again.”

Horne deferred to Reeves when asked if the statewide mask mandate -- which expires at the end of September --needs to be extended again.

He also said there are things people can do outside those mandates, actions and behaviors done out of respect for our fellow Mississippians.

“I think if we’re sick, we need to separate from other people so that we don’t give them what we have, because we don’t know if it’s a simple cold or COVID-19. We need to start being more considerate, take this moment and be more considerate of others," Horne said.

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