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Adams County records 2 more COVID deaths, officials urge mask wearing

NATCHEZ — Adams County has recorded two more COVID-19 deaths in the past few days, according to the Adams County Coroner James Lee.

Lee said he pronounced an 80-year-old male Natchez resident dead of COVID-19 Wednesday afternoon at Merit Health Natchez, and on Monday afternoon Lee had reported the COVID-19 death of an 82-year-old male at Merit Health Natchez.

Lee’s Wednesday notice came not long after area elected officials, first responders and healthcare workers said during Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson’s “COVID Currents” conference call that is broadcast on Facebook that Adams County’s COVID-19 numbers appear to be improving. The call came before Lee recorded Wednesday’s latest COVID-19 death.

During the call, Merit Health Natchez CEO Lance Boyd said the hospital had seven in-house COVID-19 patients with one on a ventilator at the time of Wednesday morning’s call.

“We haven’t been down to seven patients since May so this is a big improvement for us,” Boyd said. “A lot of those patients we still have, have been here for 20, 40, 50 days, some of them. These are patients who are quite sick, but we have not admitted new patients with COVID in several days so that is a good sign.”

Boyd said the Emergency Room is testing fewer patients in recent days than in previous weeks.

“We’ve had days (in the past) where we’ve tested as many as 62 in the outpatient in one day,” Boyd said. “I think over the weekend we tested three.”

Boyd said he believes the drop in numbers is attributable to mask ordinances.

“The mask ordinance is working,” Boyd said. “Back in late June all the hospitals in the state of Mississippi had a call with the governor … we through the Mississippi Hospital Association pleaded with him, ‘Pass the mask ordinance. Help us so that we can help you.’ He did just after that call and better results since that time have been shown. As people will wear the mask it does make a difference but I don’t want us as a community to say, ‘It worked. I can leave my mask at home now.’”

Boyd acknowledged that many people still do not want to wear masks.

“This is something … we don’t want to do,” Boyd said. “We don’t want to wear the mask but it works and if it gets us back to normal faster I’ll wear two masks. It doesn’t matter to me.”

Other participants in Wednesday’s conference call included Adams County Emergency Management Director Robert Bradford Sr., Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten, Natchez Police Chief Walter Armstrong, Adams County Board of Supervisors President Rickey Gray, representatives of two area ambulance companies and volunteer community statistician Norma Williams.

All of the guests reported that mask ordinances appear to be keeping area numbers in check and that for the most part people seem to be adhering to the mask requirements while in public.

Bradford said Adams County’s active COVID-19 cases were at 85 Wednesday.

“Within that 85 you have some at the hospital, some also in the prison system out there,” Bradford said. “We are doing great. We normally were around 100 so we are going down. Just keep in mind those numbers are from Labor Day, our schools and stuff. Right now we are tracking 85.”

Williams said the latest numbers were not available in time for Wednesday’s meeting to update Adams County’s overall year-to-date COVID-19 positivity rates, which had been at 19.8% based on Sept. 8 testing and Sept. 7 total cases.

“Keep in mind before loosening restrictions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the positivity rate should be below 5% and the World Health Organization recommends positivity rates below 5% for 14 days straight,” Williams said of reopening recommendations. “Per Johns Hopkins University and Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center, Mississippi’s seven-day rolling average positivity rate on Sept. 21 is 4.4% compared to the Sept. 14 rate of 10.4%. Of note, the Sept. 21 rate is missing an entire day (Sept. 18) of data; therefore this 4.4% rate could be misleading.”

In Thursday’s MSDH statewide report, Mississippi’s numbers rose more overnight than any night in the past few weeks with 737 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and four COVID-19 deaths.

Also in Thursday’s statewide report, Adams County’s total confirmed COVID-19 cases rose to 930 with 37 deaths since the pandemic began in March.

The state’s total number of cases is 95,310 with 2,874 deaths as of Thursday, with 85,327 presumed recovered.

According to Williams’ report, Mississippi is still No. 3 in the nation in per capita COVID-19 infection rates with 3,144 cases per 100,000 people. Florida, with 3,191 cases per 100,000 people, is No. 2 and Louisiana, with 3,473 cases per 100,000 people, is No. 1.

In closing Wednesday’s conference call, Gibson made a case for people to continue to wear masks.

“There are communities across our nation that have opened up very irresponsibly, have not worked together, have also shunned the mask and some of these communities are now closed again and their economies are suffering,” Gibson said. “Thank goodness that is not Natchez, Adams County.”

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