On the verge of students heading back to school, state health officials are seeing a surge of COVID transmission among children.

“Seventy-two percent of our kids are vulnerable to COVID,” said State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs. “I do hear people erroneously assume that the vast majority of kids have had it already. That is absolutely not the case. It’s a very important consideration as we think about going into the school year.”

Those juveniles are without evidence of antibodies from prior infection, according to CDC seroprevalence data.

Dobbs talked about the back-to-school concerns during a meeting of the State Board of Health on Wednesday.

“We know we’re going to have a challenge starting school with the Delta variant flaring right here,” said Dobbs. “The biggest problem that we have is we’ve allowed too much of the population to be not immune, unvaccinated, and now we’re paying the price for it.”

It’s an odds game, the health chief said.

“Even though most kids don’t get it, we’re seeing an explosion of cases within young folks as they are getting together for band camps, VBS and that sort of thing,” said Dobbs. “We’ve seen a deluge of outbreaks.”

There are currently several children hospitalized in the state for treatment of COVID-19, he said.

The Mississippi State Department of Health’s guidelines for the new school year will mirror those issued recently by the CDC. Those guidelines include masking for unvaccinated children. MSDH will also recommend that schools offer optional weekly testing of unvaccinated students.

In other developments, COVID-19 vaccinations will become available at all county health departments on Monday during regular hours, according to Jim Craig, director of health protection. Individuals may schedule an appointment online at covidvaccine.umc.edu or make an appointment in person at the office. Same-day appointments are usually available.

Local statistics

Alcorn County had 38 new cases via suspected community transmission for the week of June 27 to July 3, rising from 31 the prior week. The county’s positive rate for June 15 to 28 was 5.2 percent, rising from 4.5 percent during the prior frame.

Prentiss County had 21 new cases during the week of June 27 to July 3, rising from 10; Tippah County had four, down from seven; and Tishomingo County had four, up from one.

Alcorn County’s rate of fully vaccinated individuals is holding at 25 percent, with 28 percent having received at least one shot. The county is one of the least vaccinated in the nation.

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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