JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - More than seventy-five percent of the counties originally placed under mask mandates in Mississippi are showing downward trends in daily average cases, according to a 3 On Your Side analysis of data from the Mississippi State Department of Health.
The thirty-seven counties, initially announced with mask mandates in four different intervals over the month of July, had been chosen because of spikes or outbreaks that took place there.
3 On Your Side plotted a seven-day average of daily new cases for those counties and found twenty-eight -- including Hinds, Madison and Rankin -- showed a downward trajectory over the last week.
Seven counties -- Claiborne, Coahoma, Holmes, Lee, Tallahatchie, Wayne and Yalobusha -- showed slight increases, with Lee in particular being the only county of the 37 that still hasn’t peaked.
Two counties -- Sunflower and Montgomery -- appear to be relatively flat.
The county-by-county approach, which Gov. Tate Reeves likened to a surgical approach, lasted until August 4, when he announced a statewide mask mandate that would last two weeks.
“These improving numbers over the past week or so are certainly -- it’s never discouraging to find encouraging news. Lower numbers are always good. It is important that people not over-interpret them,” said Dr. Mark Horne, president-elect of the Mississippi State Medical Association. “Yes, things are better, but why are they better? We believe it’s because people have started -- we’ve had more mask mandates -- and people are starting to wear masks more and perhaps not gathering in crowds as much, perhaps less transmission. That’s what it would demonstrate.”
Statewide, the seven-day average of daily new cases shows a near-continuous drop, reaching a low Missisisppi has not seen in a month, according to MSDH data.
COVID-19-related hospitalizations, while still high, peaked days ago and seem to be slowly declining. The number of patients in intensive-care units has declined in recent days as well.
Ventilator usage, however, has remained relatively constant over the last week. Those numbers are concerning to Horne.
“Weather’s gonna change and in the fall, flu season’s gonna come just like it does every year, and that’s gonna amplify the problems as will the normal rise in respiratory illnesses that come with winter,” Horne said.
The Laurel doctor said that means more patients will likely end up hospitalized for the flu at a time when critical care already has hundreds admitted for COVID.
In addition, coronavirus transmission among schoolchildren will likely lead to a spike in cases in the coming weeks, too, Horne said.
“People need to be willing and able to change on a dime when the outbreaks do occur. It is inevitable that outbreaks will occur, and the reason it’s inevitable is because there’s such widespread community transmission across the state. Some locations are better, some are worse. Where it’s better, they’ve got a better shot. Where it’s difficult, like it is here in the Pine Belt, it is near certain that there will be these outbreaks,” Horne said.