While the COVID-19 vaccination rate in Mississippi lags, many individuals and organizations are again taking extra precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.
The Mississippi Department of Health released a statement July 16 recommending all students, teachers and employees in a K-12 setting who are eligible to receive the vaccine to do so. Masks should be worn inside schools by all employees or students who have not received the vaccine.
Columbus Municipal School District is exercising extreme caution, following all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations and closely observing suggestions from MSDH, Superintendent Cherie Labat said.
She said the school district is exceeding the MSDH recommendations by requiring all students, faculty and staff to wear a mask, even those that who have been vaccinated.
“It’s important for us to ensure that we have a safe environment,” Labat said. “We lost a teacher in the spring to COVID-19. (We will not be deterred) from doing what’s best as it relates to safety for our employees and our students.”
Vaccinations are not required for faculty or students, but Labat said CMSD will take inventory of all those who are vaccinated before school starts.
Lowndes County School District has not made a final decision regarding mask usage. Superintendent Sam Allison said the original plan was to not wear masks, but the board will meet next week to decide. LCSD is not requiring anyone to be vaccinated.
“I’ve been in contact with the board,” Allison said. “We haven’t made any decisions at this time, but we are going to discuss it next week and come up with a final decision.”
Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District’s plan moving forward regarding COVID-19 is to update its return to school guide in the coming weeks, which will contain all of the protocols the district will be taking.
SOCSD Public Information Officer Nicole Thomas said the district will share that with students and families once it is finalized.
Cases rising again in Mississippi
While case numbers seemed to decrease over the recent months, many variants are presenting themselves. Originated in India, the delta variant is spreading rapidly across the country, with other variants appearing as well.
“All viruses go through variations or mutations,” Baptist Memorial Hospital Chief Medical Center Officer Dr. James Martin told The Dispatch last week. “This is common with all viruses… Variants are expected.”
Over the past week, there have been 1,199 cases reported and nine deaths in Mississippi. Of the 1,166 variant cases reported, the majority were alpha and delta. There has been a total of 2,116,329 doses of the vaccination administered in Mississippi, with 1,017,820 (33 percent) fully vaccinated.
According to the MSDH website, as of July 10, Lowndes County has seen a total of 6,601 cases and 150 deaths since the pandemic began in March 2020, with four cases of the alpha variant cases reported. Only 28 new cases have been reported. 38,562 doses of the vaccine have been administered in Lowndes County, with 18,860 (32 percent) fully vaccinated.
In Oktibbeha County, there have been a total of 4,696 cases with 98 deaths. Oktibbeha County has seen the most cases of variants in the Golden Triangle with nine reported alpha variants, one gamma and one delta. Only 10 new cases appeared as of July 10. There are 19,068 fully vaccinated people (38 percent) in Oktibbeha County and 38,687 total doses have been administered.
Clay County has seen 1,897 total cases and 54 deaths, with one alpha and one gamma variant reported. Only four new cases of the virus were reported. 11,638 doses of the vaccine have been administered to Clay County residents, with 5,919 fully vaccinated (31 percent).
Noxubee County has seen the least number of cases in the Golden Triangle with only a total of 1,289 and 35 deaths. No cases of any variant have been reported in Noxubee County. There was only one new case reported as of July 10, and there have been a total of 7,524 doses of the vaccine administered in Noxubee County and 3,915 are fully vaccinated (38 percent).