While COVID numbers are currently easing up from the post-holiday surge, state health officials urge residents to continue with all safety precautions.

That is one of the top developments with COVID in Mississippi this past week, along with an anticipated bump in vaccine allotments.

Local hospitalizations for treatment of COVID-19 have decreased significantly. Magnolia Regional Health Center reported seven COVID-19 patients hospitalized as of Friday morning, down from more than 30 a few weeks ago.

While the surge is relenting a bit, State Epidemiologist Paul Byers encourages the public to keep the lessening numbers in perspective.

“We are still much higher than even the surge that we had over the summer,” the doctor said. “We’re still seeing lots of cases being reported. We’re still seeing lots of deaths being reported.”

Deaths topped 1,000 in December, he said, and the numbers, overall, are still indicative of “widespread transmission.”

On Friday, the state reported 2,186 new positive cases and 38 deaths, including one in Tippah County that occurred between Jan. 24 and 28.

The latest weekly snapshot for the week ending Jan. 23 finds Alcorn County’s test positivity rate at 12.3 percent, down from 17.6 percent the prior week. The county had 86 cases via suspected community transmission for the week, down from 139 in the previous week. The number of COVID-like illness visits to local medical offices dropped below 100, down from a peak of 231 a couple of weeks prior.

Tishomingo County had a positivity rate of 13.2 percent for the week, down from 16.7 percent the prior week. The county had 91 new cases via suspected community transmission, down from 96 the prior week.

Prentiss County had a positivity rate of 20.3 percent for the week, down from 22.2 percent in the prior frame. The county had 79 new cases via suspected community transmission, down from 97 the prior week.

Tippah County had a positivity rate of 16.5 percent for the week, down from 18.1 percent the prior week. The county had 74 new cases via suspected community transmission, down from 132 the prior week.

For McNairy County, the Tennessee Department of Health reported the county averaged 13.9 new cases per day over the last 14 days, down from 19.4 in the previous two weeks. Over the past week, the county’s average positive rate was 10.2 percent.

In a Friday press conference, State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs said the state’s weekly vaccine allotment of 37,000 first doses is set to rise.

“We will have additional vaccine available for the next week, and there are several reasons for this,” the doctor said. “We were able to reclaim about 9,000 doses of Phizer vaccine from the long-term care program … In addition, we were given additional vaccine from the federal government. As anticipated, they have told us we can expect about 16 percent increases over the next few weeks. Those combined, we should have an additional 15,000 doses or so from those two sources.”

Thus far, more than a third of the state’s residents 75 and older have received vaccinations.

The number of local residents vaccinated thus far with first doses as of Friday is 2,651 in Alcorn County; 945 in Tishomingo County; and 1,023 in Prentiss County. For the state, first-dose vaccinations given total 202,722, and those fully vaccinated number 23,437. Providers are required to report shots given to the immunization registry within 24 hours.

At the state drive-through sites, 30,000 second doses will be administered in the week of Feb. 8, coinciding with the number of people who are eligible for those boosters, Gov. Tate Reeves said during a Thursday briefing.

Byers said additional appointments for first doses at the drive-through sites should show up on the website covidvaccine.umc.edu by Monday. Due to overwhelming demand, appointment slots continue to fill up quickly. The closest drive-through site to Alcorn County continues to be the Lee County Health Department.

Eligibility continues to be limited to those 65 and older and those who have certain existing health conditions.

Magnolia Regional Health Center’s COVID appointment number is 293-1301. The state hotline for drive-through appointments is (877) 978-6453.

Staff Writer

Jebb Johnston is a 1991 Alcorn Central High School graduate and a 1995 Ole Miss journalism graduate. His primary beats are city and county government.

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