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Officials urge distancing, mask wearing over holiday weekend

NATCHEZ — Adams County’s COVID-19 caseload appears to be on the decline, but now is not the time for people to let their guards down, especially as the Labor Day weekend is approaching, area leaders said during a teleconference call on Thursday.

“It is important to continue wearing the mask and treating each other with respect and social distancing and washing our hands, because we don’t want an increase in our numbers over this holiday weekend,” said Dan Gibson, Natchez mayor during Thursday’s “COVID Currents” conference call. “We want to make sure our economy remains open.”

Thursday’s conference call included Gibson, volunteer statistician Norma Williams, Dr. Lee England, Merit Health Natchez CEO Lance Boyd and local media representatives and was organized as a way to share information between the parties and the general public.

Gibson said he hopes future meetings, to be held on Wednesdays, will be streamed on social media.

During Thursday’s call, Williams said Mississippi recently surpassed Arizona to have the nation’s third highest COVID-19 per capita infection rate just behind Florida and Louisiana.

“Mississippi is now at 2,808 active cases (per 100,000 people),” Williams said. “The only two states that are above us out of the entire 50 states in the country are Florida and Louisiana. Louisiana having 3,203 COVID cases per 100,000 people.”

Florida at No. 2 has 2,903 cases per 100,000 people, Williams said.

Mississippi’s numbers are increasing while Florida’s number are decreasing and Williams said she believes Mississippi’s per capita rate could eventually surpass Florida’s rate.

Williams uses figures from Johns Hopkins University, USA Facts, the Mississippi State Department of Health and the Louisiana Department of Health to compile her numbers.

While the state’s numbers are still increasing in recent days, they are not increasing as rapidly as they had been in recent weeks, officials said, and Adams County’s numbers seem to be leveling off.

Adams County’s active caseload was 96 on Wednesday, according to the Adams County Emergency Management Agency.

EMA Director Brad Bradford shared Adams County COVID-19 information in a Wednesday Facebook post.

“We’re heading in the right direction,” Bradford wrote, “so keep wearing masks or face coverings, practicing social distancing and hand washing techniques. We are heading into a holiday weekend so let’s not relapse and keep our city and county businesses open.”

Bradford’s post including the following statistics for Adams County: 1. Total tested: 4,059; 2. Mississippi State Department of Health confirmed cases: 797; 3. Active cases: 96; 4. Deaths: 32; 5. Expired quarantine cases: 701.

“We are in a downturn of cases here and statewide but that does not mean they are not rolling into the emergency room,” England said, adding he worked with one case Thursday morning and two others on Wednesday. “…I remember the last downturn we had, things calmed down and then we had the businesses all open up and the bars and so on, and we’ve had a rough July and August. I’m afraid people might interpret this downturn wrongly and relax what they have done. We have to remember we are all in this together, the doctors, the nurses, the public at large. We are all depending on each other. If people will remain disciplined with their masks and distancing we can maintain this. …”

England further reminded people of the risk of gathering in large groups, potentially being exposed and spreading COVID to others unknowingly.

Boyd said Merit Health Natchez had eight COVID-19 positive patients in the hospital on Thursday with one COVID patient on a ventilator and other non-COVID patients on ventilators.

“We actually have been for the last four days below double digits on positive cases in the hospital,” Boyd said. “That’s a good trend for us. I think we have been in double digits since early June. It has been at a higher rate but now we seem to be trending in a more favorable direction.”

Boyd also said that over the past several days the hospital has had multiple discharges of COVID patients from the hospital.

Gibson said the city will be giving away free masks in a drive-thru event as part of the city’s “It’s a simple ask, wear a mask” campaign from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday at First Baptist Church, 150 Devereux Drive, Natchez.