Health department recommends both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals wear masks in public indoor settings amid Delta spread

Published 2:32 pm Wednesday, July 28, 2021

The Mississippi State Department of Health issued new guidelines about mask-wearing during a Wednesday press conference.

State epidemiologist Paul Byers said MSDH is now recommending, “Everyone, including those who are fully vaccinated, wear a mask in public indoor settings.”

More guidance issued Wednesday by MSDH follows:

  • If you test positive, even if fully vaccinated, isolate for 10 days from the beginning of symptoms.
  • If you are exposed, regardless of vaccination status, get tested 3 to 5 days after exposure. Fully vaccinated individuals do not have to quarantine after exposure but should get tested.
  • If you are 65 or older, avoid all indoor mass gatherings, even if you have been vaccinated.
  • If you have a chronic medical condition, you should avoid all indoor mass gatherings, even if you have been vaccinated.

 

With these new guidelines, MSDH said they will also be issuing guidance to school systems that all teachers, staff, students and visitors wear masks in indoor settings.

This new guidance came after it was announced Tuesday that another Mississippi teen under 18 years old has died with COVID-19.

State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said the teen who died had a common underlying health condition.

State health officials said the teen was the fourth child in the state that has died with the disease: two who are in the 11 to 17 age group, one in the 6 to 10 age group and one in the 1 to 5 age group.

Two of the children died in 2020 prior to the emergence of the highly contagious Delta variant, which has accounted for more than 90% of new COVID cases in the state, Byers said. Additionally, 10 children are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in Mississippi, health officials said.

“There are deaths that occur in children under the age of 18. There are hospitalizations that occur as well, and so we encourage all parents to get your children vaccinated. This is going to be a key to not only protecting your children but to preventing transmission in school settings and preventing transmission to the vulnerable population, especially those individuals that they may share a household with,” Byers said. “The vaccine is still very effective against Delta variant. Not only is it effective at preventing illness but it is also effective at reducing the risk of severe illness.”

Some cases have spilled over to people in the vaccinated group who are older or have weakened immune systems, Dobbs said.

The state is seeing a “rapid increase” in COVID-19 cases and some increase in COVID-related deaths, Dobbs said.

“We’re seeing a massive rise now (in cases) and schools are just getting started,” he said. “If you look at the trajectory of our rise it’s not a slope. It’s a cliff. It’s an upward cliff. There is no turning downward.”

The strain is being felt in hospitals around the state with 28 Mississippi hospitals reporting no ICU bed availability as of Wednesday.

More than 95% of cases and almost all hospitalizations have been among unvaccinated individuals, Dobbs said.

In response to this strain, Jim Craig, senior deputy director of the MSDH Office of Health Protection, said all Mississippi licensed hospitals will be required to participate in the “Mississippi COVID-19 System of Care Plan” effective Thursday until Aug. 15.

“In parts of our state, hospitals are struggling to accommodate the acute clinical demands they are facing with the increase in hospitalizations. So, consistent with the COVID-19 System of Care Plan, we will enact a COVID-19 rotation to ensure the proper assignment of patients to an appropriate hospital,” Craig said.

To facilitate the order, Craig said the state health department is enacting “Mississippi Med-Com,” which serves as a statewide patient-transfer coordination point. All hospitals will be required to report to Med-Com all transfers requiring ICU level care for both COVID and non-COVID patients, Craig said.

Additionally, hospitals must begin delaying certain elective procedures that would require overnight hospitalization effective Monday, Aug. 1 until Aug. 15, which “should increase our critical resource availability,” Craig said.