Delta Health Center medical staff are waiting in Hollandale, Mississippi on April 27, 2021 to vaccinate people at a pop-up Covid-19 vaccination clinic in that rural Delta community.
Spencer Platt | Getty Images
Mississippi state health officials issued new guidelines Friday urging state residents over 65 and immunocompromised residents, vaccinated or unvaccinated, to avoid indoor mass gatherings for the next two weeks “significant transmission” of the Delta variant in the coming weeks.
The new policy is valid until July 26th and is not mandatory. Instead, the guidelines should be viewed as a recommendation.
“We do not recommend mandates. We give personal recommendations to people at high risk of serious consequences, ”said Dr. Mississippi State Health Commissioner Thomas Dobbs during a news conference Friday. “We don’t want anyone to die unnecessarily.”
Dobbs said he currently “doesn’t expect” the guidelines to be extended to other age groups in the future.
Officials said they are starting to see significant transmission of the Delta variant, very reminiscent of what was seen in the early days of the pandemic. Mississippi state health epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers, specifically highlighted church groups, school and summer programs, funeral meetings and workplaces, and long-term care facilities as areas where officials are already seeing spikes in infection.
“We saw right away that they were the result of the Delta variant, and the broadcast … was pretty significant,” Byers said at the news conference on Friday.
The state is second to last of all states after Alabama when it comes to the percentage of the population who are fully vaccinated with two doses. About 25% of Mississippi population aged 65 and over are still unvaccinated and make up the majority of Covid deaths in the state. State health officials also said they are also seeing deaths in vaccinated residents “because we keep exposing them,” Dobbs said, although the percentage is tiny.
Mississippi ranks last in the country for the percentage of adults with at least one Covid vaccination, and the state also ranks last in the country for the percentage of residents 12 years and older with at least one vaccination.
“I don’t think we’re going to have a miraculous spike in our vaccination rate in the next few weeks, so people are going to die unnecessarily,” warned Dobbs.
State health officials asked vaccinated residents to speak to others about their experiences with the vaccine in order to raise awareness of the safety and effectiveness of the vaccinations.
“Let people know, let your family know, let your neighbors know, let your friends know,” Dobbs said. “There is no stronger message than trust and trust to let people know how widespread the vaccine is and understand that people are safe and happy to be protected.”