City, county and university officials met with the state’s top health official on Wednesday to coordinate and discuss the rise in coronavirus cases locally as the fourth wave hits Mississippi.
“It is hitting right now. We are in the very beginning stages of it,” said Jimmy Allgood, the director of emergency management for the city of Oxford.
“We’ve seen our average case numbers go up in the past few weeks and we’re attributing that to two factors,” he says. “Low vaccination rates statewide, but also the Delta variant is more contagious. So, we are very concerned about this.”
On July 19, Lafayette county reported 24 new cases of coronavirus, the most in a single day since March according to The New York Times’ coronavirus dashboard. 19 more cases were reported the following day bringing the seven-day average to nine. This time in June the seven-day average was two, an increase of 350 percent.
“Football season is coming. All these people are coming to town so we have no reason to expect that it will not get worse,” Allgood said.
Fall semester at the University of Mississippi is set to commence on Aug. 23. The first home football game is scheduled for Sep. 11, where Vaught-Hemmingway will be operating at full capacity. Currently, the University will not require vaccinations to return to campus, but will be requiring masks for unvaccinated individuals.
“It brings people from all over the country into the city and into the county. They’re bringing not only the Delta variant but also the other variants which is another possibility,” he said. “We know it’s going to be a concern. That’s the reason we’re doing another big push on getting vaccinated.”
Currently, 45 percent of Lafayette County residents are vaccinated. Allgood emphasized that the rise in cases is still cause for concern, as the county has yet to achieve vaccination rates that constitute herd immunity.
“We’re about 3rd in the state for total vaccinations, but overall, as a state and as a county we’re low,” he said. “We need to be above 50 percent, closer to 70 percent.”
The city does not have plans to alter current coronavirus restrictions or instate new ones, but they are monitoring the situation closely.
“Whether we roll back to shutting stuff down? That is to be seen. It’s hard to go back and shut things down. We’re not even talking about shutting things down,” he says. “That’s the reason we’re closely monitoring everything–so we have good information when the decisions need to be made.”
Allgood recommends that everyone employ common sense to keep themselves and others safe.
“If you are not vaccinated, and you go to a large social gathering. Wear a mask. Use your hand sanitizer. Observe social distancing,” he said. “If you are vaccinated, and you go to a large gathering, it may be wise to take extra precautions and also wear a mask.”
Allgod suggested that anyone who is eligible should get vaccinated.
“We could cut the head of this fourth wave by people going and getting vaccinated,” he said. “That is the key factor on breaking this thing. We’ve got to get the herd immunity and the key to that is vaccinations.”