Mississippi health officials urge precaution ahead of July 4 amid Delta variant spread

Mississippi health officials urge precaution ahead of July 4 amid Delta variant spread

Mississippi health officials on Tuesday advised residents take their Fourth of July celebrations outdoors amid increasing COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations linked to the highly transmissible Delta variant in unvaccinated individuals.

Thomas Dobbs, state health officer, noted 11 new daily deaths, 10 of which occurred in unvaccinated individuals, including three people in their 30s, and 1 involved a partially vaccinated person in their 80s. Dobbs told reporters over a call that unvaccinated individuals accounted for 96% of cases in the past month, 95% of hospitalizations and 90% of deaths.

“This is something we’re going to see more of as we go through the next few weeks with the Delta variant becoming the predominant strain within our state and as we approach the Fourth of July, we do hope people can show some moderate behavior, try to do stuff outside if you can primarily, especially if you’re around folks who are unvaccinated or undervaccinated.”

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Mississippi’s vaccination rates are lagging behind that of the U.S.; 31% of the state’s population is fully vaccinated, falling behind 46% of the U.S.

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The state has identified 78 cases of the Delta variant, according to Paul Byers, state epidemiologist, who expressed concern over the variant due to its high transmissibility. The strain, first detected in India and since reported in over 85 countries, has the potential to reduce the effectiveness of monoclonal antibody treatments and vaccines. Byers reported outbreaks tied to the Delta variant among school-aged kids, in camp and congregate settings as well as in a personal care home.

“I think that when we get to interactions with the Fourth of July, that we may see some increased cases and hospitalizations after that if we’re not taking the proper precautions,” he said.

The officials noted that COVID-19 vaccines are widely available in Mississippi, and urged those not yet vaccinated to consult health care providers and become vaccinated, especially in the face of concerning viral variants.