MSDH updating COVID19 guidelines related to masking, schools and hospitals

Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 8:27 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) -The Mississippi State Department of Health confirms the majority of COVID-19 cases the state is currently seeing are the Delta variant. And they’re seeing outbreaks throughout the state.

This sharp increase in cases is prompting the state’s health officials to take the measures they can in an attempt to lessen the impacts of this latest wave.

“It’s likely that we will be aligning our school guidance with the CDC’s guidance as well,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers.

That means recommending every student, staff, and visitor mask up, regardless of their vaccination status.

“I’m not saying this is something that’s going to last all school year, but right now, with a highly contagious delta circulating and the vast majority of kids not immune, it’s a perfect recipe for transmission in schools,” noted State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs.

The Governor has said he has no intentions of requiring masks, and the Department of Health stresses that a mandate isn’t something they can initiate.

“We stand ready to help,” added Dobbs. “This isn’t something the health department can do by itself. This is something we have to do collectively. We have purview over several different areas, but when it comes to education, that’s really going to be primarily a local decision.”

So, are districts inclined to change their policies? We asked Lauderdale County Schools.

“We are recommending them as well, but we’re not requiring them, so essentially we’re following the department of health guidelines,” said Superintendent Dr. John-Mark Cain.

Dr. John-Mark Cain says they got a lot of feedback on masking prior to releasing their policy.

“Overwhelming voice we heard was we want to have a choice in this decision so that played a lot into our policy and you do have to try to balance that with overall safety,” noted Cain. “It’s an ongoing thing that we have to do. We’re not one and done here.”

He says they’ll keep monitoring local data throughout the year. An area the department of Health does have purview over — orders regarding hospitals.

“Some areas of the state where our system is already taxed,” explained Jim Craig, MSDH Senior Deputy and Director of Health Protection. “We have patients who would normally be in an ICU or having to be bedded in an emergency room because the ICU beds are full right now.”

That’s why a health officer order has been issued. The COVID-19 system of care will be activated starting Thursday, July 29, centralizing the management of hospital capacity and transfers. And elective procedures requiring overnight hospital stays will be delayed between August 1-15.

The Department of Health also aligning with the overall CDC recommendation, asking all Mississippians to mask up indoors, regardless of whether you’ve been vaccinated.

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