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COVID-19 numbers spike locally just before holidays

NATCHEZ — Health leaders throughout the nation are asking people to change up their traditional Thanksgiving celebrations to lessen the chance of spreading COVID-19 and increasing the chance of spending future holidays with friends and family.

Natchez and Adams County are no exception to COVID-19 concerns as the Thanksgiving holiday draws near.

Adams County set a new record for active cases on Friday with 163 confirmed COVID-19 positive residents, said Adams County Emergency Management Director Robert Bradford

Adams County has had an approximately 20 active cases added daily in the last week, Bradford said.

Meanwhile, the number of people getting tested for COVID-19 in the county is down, which could mean people are out and about with no symptoms who could be “super spreaders,” Bradford said.

With the current caseload, Bradford urged residents to “be smart” while celebrating Thanksgiving.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health experts are recommending that people celebrate Thanksgiving outside, virtually or that they postpone family gatherings altogether this year.

“We don’t want to be in a position where our leaders have to put more drastic measures in place — a curfew, closing down bars at a certain time or things like that. If we continue going on the path were going, it may come to that,” Bradford said.

Cases are rising

Data from the Mississippi State Department of Health also show statewide COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rising, a trend found in many areas throughout the nation.

MSDH graphs show the number of confirmed COVID-19 postive patients in Mississippi hospitals has been increasing daily for nearly a week — beginning Nov. 14 with 680 patients and rising to 863 patients as of 6 p.m. Thursday.

MSDH reports 225 of those patients were in intensive care as of Thursday.

Data from the state health department also show 18 confirmed positive patients were hospitalized at Merit Health Natchez with seven of those patients in intensive care as of Thursday. At the time, Merit Health Natchez had one available ICU bed.

On Friday, MSDH reported 1,638 new COVID-19 cases and 23 new deaths in the state. Six of the new deaths occurred between Oct. 31 and Nov. 13 and were recently verified through death certificates, MSDH reports.

Norma Williams, a volunteer statistician from Natchez, said the highest single day peak reported for Mississippi is 1,775 new cases, which was set on July 29.

The highest number of single day deaths reported for Mississippi is 61, reported on Aug. 24, Williams said. 

Take precautions

Bradford said he encourages people to read what the CDC guidelines are for celebrating Thanksgiving and make an educated decision.

“I’m not opposed to people traveling and going to see their families but you have to take precautions and be careful about wearing your masks and limit contact with family members coming from hotspot areas. … The CDC has put out guidance for the holidays and I would encourage people to look at it. Our numbers are definitely on the rise. … Be safe, be smart and have a plan.”

For those planning to travel this Thanksgiving, the CDC website states those who answer “yes” to any of the following questions should consider making other plans, such as hosting a virtual gathering or delaying their travel:

4Are you, someone in your household, or someone you will be visiting at increased risk for getting very sick from COVID-19?

4Are cases high or increasing in your community or your destination?

4Are hospitals in your community or your destination overwhelmed with patients who have COVID-19?

4Does your home or destination have requirements or restrictions for travelers?

4During the 14 days before your travel, have you or those you are visiting had close contact with people they don’t live with?

4Do your plans include traveling by bus, train, or air, which might make staying 6 feet apart difficult?

4Are you traveling with people who don’t live with you?

Consider celebrations

The CDC also recommends making social gatherings safer by either celebrating with immediate family members that live in the same household or outdoors and practice hand washing, mask wearing and social distancing.

“We’re supposed to have good weather for Thanksgiving and being outside helps a lot,” Bradford said. “Practice social distancing and limit contact with family members coming from hotspot areas. Just be cautious.”

Dr. Lee England, a Natchez physician and former chairman of the COVID-19 Task Force, said traveling for Thanksgiving may not be the best choice.

“Right now the cases in Adams County are rising very, very quickly,” England said. “Traveling now, and family get-togethers are just not a good idea. There is a lot of transmission going on at family gatherings.”

England said people who do spend time with family this holiday season should do whatever they can to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

“Eating outside or evening avoiding the get together or postponing until another time toward Christmas would be best. If you have a get-together, it should be done with masks, hand washing and social-distancing.”

The impact

Adams County Coroner James Lee said he lost his granddaughter, who was 25, to COVID-19 Thursday morning.

She was pregnant with a now three-month-old child when she first contracted the virus and has fighting serious lung problems since, Lee said.

“COVID-19 has left a big hole in our hearts,” he said. “This disease is real and not a joke. It can kill the young and the old. What our local, state and federal leaders do to protect us from this pandemic is a matter of life and death. The CDC’s guidelines just may save your life if you comply.”

England said it is possible that the worst spike in COVID-19 cases in 2020 could come during or after the holidays.

England said he suspects that the virus is being transmitted by junior high and high school-aged students to their families from classrooms and believes another spike could occur when college students are home for the holidays.

“Things are getting worse rapidly,” England said. “The next few months are going to be very hard and probably won’t ease up until the weather starts warming up toward the end of February. I think this will be the worst that we will see. It is the first full winter of the epidemic.

“Keep the masks on. That helps an enormous amount. Wash your hands and be outside as much as you can. If you’re inside, distance yourself out 6 feet. If we’re doing all of those things, we can get through this.”

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