COVID-19 cases in Mississippi have increased rapidly over the past two weeks, although overall numbers are still low.
Mississippi has seen the largest percentage increase in the country for new COVID-19 cases during that time period, according to data from local and state health authorities compiled by the New York Times. Mississippi’s cases rose 251% compared to 59% nationally.
The state recently reported 701 new cases of the virus over a two-day period (Wednesday and Thursday).
“We have transmission, there is no doubt,” said Liz Sharlot, communications director at the Mississippi Department of Health. “COVID is still here and our best advice is to get vaccinated if you do not have, get your booster and another booster if you are eligible. Our concern remains with older people who do not get the other booster. It does a difference.”
Even with the recent increase in transmission, 80 of Mississippi’s 82 counties have low levels of COVID-19 at the community level, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data.
Jasper and Wilkinson counties are experiencing “medium level transmission.” At that level, the CDC recommends that people high risk of serious illness talk to their health care provider about whether or not to wear a mask and take other precautions.
The overall speed of COVID-19 transmission in Mississippi cratered after the explosive omicron wave seen in January but has risen again over the past month. The Mississippi’s 7-day average for new cases was 104 on April 12, but had risen to 337 per. May 12
There has been an increase in outbreaks among long-term care facilities, which state health officials said could be an indicator of increased societal proliferation.
Actual numbers are likely to be higher due to the increased use of home tests that are not reported to the state Department of Health.
The Omicron variant still accounts for virtually all COVID cases in Mississippi.
Mississippi remains one of the least vaccinated states in the nation. The only state that has vaccinated fewer of its population is Wyoming.
From 11 May 60% of Mississippians had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 52% had received at least two doses. The state has had a harder time getting vaccinated people to receive booster doses. Only 19% of the state’s population has received at least one booster dose, representing less than a third of those who have taken a COVID-19 vaccine in the state.
The largest proportion of recent COVID deaths in the state are among those who have not been vaccinated or have only been partially vaccinated. This group accounted for over 47% of COVID-19 deaths in the state from April 12 to May 9, while fully vaccinated Mississippians accounted for 17% of those deaths during that period.
Although the state’s frequency of hospital admissions has decreased as the number of cases has increased, these rates are a delaying indicator. The health department said the use of intensive care beds and ventilators for COVID patients remains low.
The availability of oral antiviral therapies against COVID-19, such as Paxlovid and molnupiravir, has increased dramatically in Mississippi since January and has helped reduce hospital admissions.