Harrison County COVID-19 spike causing concerns

Harrison County COVID-19 spike causing concerns

GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - It’s not just Monday’s one-day spike in positive COVID-19 cases, but the whole month of June that is causing concern.

The rise in cases follows in sequence behind a relaxation of coronavirus precautions state-wide.

“We have had more positives in the first ten days in June than we had the entire month of May,” said Matt Walker, VP of Clinic Operations at Memorial Hospital at Gulfport (MHG). “We will most likely triple or quadruple our positives in the month of June compared to May.”

“To some extent, I was afraid this was going to happen when we opened up the state,” said Dr. Jesse Penico, infectious disease specialist at MHG. “I would have rather been wrong, I’d have rather we were all wrong, but it did happen.”

Penico said the numbers are not simply a function of testing more people. He said his greater concern was that the rate of positive tests was so high.

Monday's COVID-19 FAQs with Dr. Penico

“Since the beginning of June, we’ve tested 276 patients and of those 276, 27 have come back positive. About a 10 percent positive rate,” said Dr. Brett Kathmann, ER physician at MHG. Overall, June testing at Memorial has returned an 8.7 percent positive rate. The national average is 4.5%.

Gov. Reeves ended his Safer at Home restrictions on June 1. While Reeves has urged Mississippians to wear masks and stay socially distant, the numbers state-wide continue to rise.

“If you’ve been out and about on the weekends, I would imagine most people are noticing what is causing this spike,” Walker said. “Less people are wearing masks, folks are not socially distancing— as we did in the month of May—and I think a lot of the relaxing up and down the Coast are starting to drive our results.”

Reeves has so far relied on his trust in people following coronavirus guidelines. While he has enforced additional restrictions in some counties that have experienced a spike, he hasn’t said what would cause the state to issue such restrictions.

“It is very possible that we could see a spike in any one county that would lead Dr. Dobbs and I to sit down and have a conversation and say, ‘Hey, we need to enforce more measures in certain areas of the state,’” Gov. Reeves said during his daily press conference on Monday.

In order to avoid that happening in Harrison County, people need to enforce the safety guidelines on themselves.

“I think we’re all hoping that people will try to wear your masks, wash your hands, don’t touch your face and socially distance as best as we can,” Kathmann said.

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