by Hunter Dawkins, Publisher

At a recent press conference Wednesday, the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) acknowledged the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recent advice for all people to wear masks indoor to stop the spread of COVID-19 global pandemic.  Especially with the recent surge from the COVID-19 variant; Delta, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs expressed his sorrow for the loss of a recent teenager.

“We are trying to get schools ready so they can have free masks,” said Dr. Dobbs when referring to the opening of schools.  “We stand ready to help as this is not something that the Department of Health can do by itself.  We have some areas we can help out, but when it comes to education, that will primarily be a local decision.”

MSDH officials said Wednesday that they will echo the CDC guidance and recommend that all teachers, students and visitors at schools wear a mask indoors, regardless of vaccination status.

Although coronavirus-related deaths among children are still in the minority, the loss is “acute,” Dobbs said.  As of Tuesday, 10 children were hospitalized with coronavirus in Mississippi, with three in the ICU.

Two of the COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic were in children between the ages of 11 to 17, one was between the ages of 6 and 10, the other was under 5 years old. Three had underlying medical conditions. Two of those deaths were in 2020 and two in 2021.

Although COVID-19 cases are surging in Mississippi, Republican Gov. Tate Reeves said Thursday that a federal recommendation for people to wear masks indoors is “foolish.”

“It has nothing to do with science,” Reeves said during a speech at the Neshoba County Fair Thursday morning.

The CDC reversed course on some of its guidelines Tuesday, recommending that even vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the virus is spreading rapidly.

Mississippi has one of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the nation, and Reeves on Thursday encouraged people to get vaccinated.

During his outdoor speech at the fair, Reeves repeated what his office had said earlier this week, that he will not set a mask mandate for schools. Some Mississippi school districts have already started classes, and others will begin by August.

In discussion with both local school districts about the opening, Pass Christian School District Superintendent; Dr. Carla Evers, commented that “We are closely monitoring the Delta variant and today we plan to open school on August 4, 2021 with a STRONG RECOMMENDATION that our children and staff wear face coverings when inside school buildings.  We trust that our families and staff will honor this recommendation to ensure we have a safe and full school year.”

When reaching out to the Long Beach School District (LBSD), the superintendent; Dr. Talia Lock, stated “We are in constant communication with our school board, school nurses, and neighboring districts to determine how to best navigate this pandemic to keep our students, faculty and staff safe and in school.”

Additionally, Dr. Lock conveyed that LBSD has “a reopening plan on out website and if we need to make any changes, we will update the plan as receive guidance from the MSDH and CDC.”

Close to 80% of COVID-19 deaths in Mississippi are among unvaccinated people.

As of Friday, Pass Christian and Gulfport School Districts will require masks to prevent spread of the pandemic; COVID-19, due to the reports from the state health officials.  Governor Tate Reeves has made no indication of issuing another statewide mask mandate.