Miss. health officials recommend everyone 65+ avoid indoor mass gatherings

Linda Busby, 74, receives a vaccination card after receiving a shot of the Johnson & Johnson...
Linda Busby, 74, receives a vaccination card after receiving a shot of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at the Aaron E. Henry Community Health Service Center, Wednesday, April 7, 2021, in Clarksdale, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)(Rogelio V. Solis | AP)
Published: Jul. 9, 2021 at 1:09 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 9, 2021 at 3:41 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Mississippi health officials are implementing a new guidance in relation to COVID-19.

State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs says the predictions they have had that the delta variant will become problematic in Mississippi are coming true.

“We’ve seen almost an entire takeover in the delta variant,” Dobbs said.

He says they are seeing outbreaks in group settings, including youth camps and nursing homes.

MSDH is recommending anyone age 65 or older or with health issues to avoid any indoor mass gatherings over the next few weeks--even if vaccinated.

He says there is about 25 percent of the 65+ population that is still unvaccinated and there have been deaths among them, even among those who are vaccinated.

“We are putting them at risk,” Dobbs said of the state’s low vaccination rate, which is the lowest in the country.

He says because there is not likely going to be a sudden uptick in vaccination rate, older and vulnerable people are going to suffer for it.

“People are going to die needlessly,” Dobbs said.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers says case numbers and hospitalizations in relation to COVID-19 are trending upwards.

“These are not big increases, but you can see the trends are moving upwards,” Byers said.

He says this is because of an increase in the spread of the virus, predominantly among those who are unvaccinated.

While death numbers are not up, Byers says they anticipate that to change because death numbers tend to lag behind case numbers.

Byers says there have been about 150 cases of the delta variant in Mississippi, which puts it at the forefront of the variant types in the state.

Byers points to the delta variant as a key reason for the outbreaks that have come from mass gatherings such as funerals or weddings.

“This delta variant is highly transmissible. It’s highly infectious,” Byers said. “...The good news is the vaccine is still highly effective against the delta variant.”

He also discussed a new Center for Disease Control guidance that vaccinated teachers and children do not need to wear masks upon returning to school.

“We are reviewing that guidance and we will be updating schools with some Mississippi-specific guidance,” he said. “...We still want to, as we did last August, facilitate in-person learning as much as possible.

Senior Deputy and Director of Health Protection Jim Craig says work is still being done on facilitating pop-up vaccination sites around the state for anyone 12 years and older.

Upcoming pop-ups will be available in Ashland, Lucedale, Amory, Corinth, Okolona, Fulton, Holly Springs and Louisville. Anyone who is homebound can get assistance by calling 877-978-6453 or emailing COVIDHomebound@msdh.ms.gov.

The National Guard will be pulled from vaccination sites, per an order from Governor Tate Reeves, on July 15. This means some counties will be moving their vaccination sites toward the local health department locations.

Starting July 19, free COVID vaccinations will be available at all county health departments.

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