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Rising cases have health officer ‘concerned’

New cases of COVID-19 are still rising statewide and Mississippi’s state health officer is troubled.

Lincoln County has reported 72 new cases of the virus since Friday, and no new deaths. Totals now stand at 1,254 cases and 53 deaths for the county.

Statewide, 713 new cases and 14 deaths were reported Tuesday. The state numbers now sit at 105,941 cases and 3,115 deaths.

There are 128 outbreaks in long-term care facilities across the state. An outbreak is when a single confirmed COVID-19 infection is found in an LTC facility resident or more than one infection is found in employees or staff in a 14-day period.

State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said Monday he is concerned about a potential rise in COVID-19 cases.

“I do think we’re on the front end of something that could be bad,” he said.

Dobbs said the department is seeing increasing hospitalizations in the state, and six major hospitals in Mississippi have no available ICU capacity. He added that the state is seeing an increasing proportion of people with COVID-19-like illness.

“All of the indicators are starting to turn in an unwanted direction,” Dobbs said. “It’s a good time for us to start preparing for increasing cases and increasing hospitalizations over the next several weeks.”

He encouraged people to follow CDC guidelines on Halloween and to have more “modest plans” on the holiday.

“It’s very okay to not do a traditional trick or treating scenario anyway, because we know the risk is out there, especially for kids who live with people who might be in a vulnerable age group or vulnerable, with chronic medical conditions,” he said.

Although Republican Gov. Tate Reeves ended his statewide mask mandate Sept. 30, Dobbs said it’s important for people to voluntarily do simple things to slow the spread of the virus — wearing masks, keeping social distance of at least 6 feet and avoiding large gatherings.

Dobbs said Mississippi’s case numbers were “starting to creep up” before health officials expected any impact from the lifting of the mask mandate. He said the lack of a mandate could add to the problem of increasing cases.

“I will say, personally, I’ve been a little bit disappointed just hearing from churches and businesses that they feel like they are no longer empowered to have their members or visitors wear masks,” Dobbs said.

Cities and counties are allowed to set their own mandates for people to wear masks in public places.

Nearly one million tests had been conducted as of Oct. 3 in the Magnolia State for the coronavirus, with 904,005 tests total. Out of that total, 796,968 have been conducted for positive detection of the virus, 40,048 for antibodies and 66,989 for antigens.

Local testing

Testing is available in Brookhaven at King’s Daughters Medical Center. The COVID screening site is located behind the Emergency Room and will be open to the public 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday and 10 a.m-2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Traffic for this site should enter from Brookman Drive behind the hospital. This screening is for individuals 12 years of age and up. Call 601-835-9455 to make an appointment.

Testing is also available for those without insurance, on Mondays from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. outside the Lincoln County Health Department, 1212 Northpark Lane NE, Brookhaven. The Mississippi National Guard is in charge of performing these tests. Interested persons should call 601-496-7200 before arriving.

To find more testing facilities in the state, visit HealthyMS.com and click on “Getting Tested” in the blue menu on the left.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.