Gov. Tate Reeves addresses members of the press at a recent COVID-19 briefing.

As the state points to some evidence of moderation in COVID-19 numbers, State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs encouraged residents to “stick with it” when it comes to safety precautions.

The state reported 644 new cases on Tuesday, less than half the number reported a week earlier.

“We are beginning to turn the corner,” Gov. Tate Reeves said in Tuesday’s coronavirus briefing.

The statewide mask mandate went into effect a week ago, and “it is becoming more and more clear that masks work,” said Reeves.

Alcorn County has added 72 cases over the past week, reaching a total of 435 through Tuesday. That’s an increase of 20 percent over the week. The county’s death toll ticked up from four to five during the past week. Magnolia Regional Health Center’s last update, posted Friday, showed 27 in-patients currently hospitalized with COVID-19.

Tishomingo and Tippah counties each added an additional death in the Tuesday update, bringing each county’s total to 7 and 14, respectively.

“We’re seeing a flattening of new hospitalizations, although we’re still having significant stress on the capacity of these hospitals,” said Dobbs. “We have also seen a decline in test numbers that reflects decreased demand, so we do believe this is a real moderation in the number of daily cases, but it’s nothing that we want to let our guard down as we have before. We let our guard down in May, and we suffered severely for it, so now we need to make sure we double down, follow up on the mask use, make sure that we maintain social distancing.”

Dobbs said it is not yet possible to return to life as normal.

“Until we have an effective vaccine, we’re not likely to see the end of this, and so we’re going to look into the next year,” he said. “So, let’s have the long view, be patient, and not minimize the severity of the virus. There’s a temptation to minimize it so we don’t have to worry about it, and we end up paying the price for that, too.”

In a cautionary note from Dobbs, he said people who are wearing a face shield still need to wear a face mask, as well, in order to be adequately covered.

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