On Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci expressed that he would wear a face mask, even though he is fully vaccinated, if he were to visit Mississippi — the state with the lowest number of vaccinations. He also suggested that it might be wise for vaccinated Mississippians to wear masks as an extra measure of caution.
Presently, only 36.3 percent of Mississippians have received one dose of the vaccine and 29.9 percent are fully vaccinated, according to the Mayo Clinic’s COVID-19 vaccine tracker. This puts Mississippi last behind a slew of other southern and midwestern states with low vaccination rates. These are the areas that Fauci would wear a mask despite his vaccinated status.
Fauci said on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press,’ “I might want to go the extra mile to be cautious enough to be sure that I get the extra added layer of protection, even though the vaccines themselves are highly effective.”
Fauci is not the first public official to turn their eyes toward Mississippi over poor vaccination numbers. On June 22, First Lady Jill Biden visited a Mississippi vaccination site in Jackson, where the Delta variant is spreading, to ease vaccine hesitancy and implore residents to get vaccinated.
In addition to Mississippi’s low vaccination rates, COVID-19 cases are also rising. Mississippi has seen an increase in COVID-19 cases across June, according to the Mississippi State Department of Health’s (MSDH) COVID-19 data. The Delta variant, which is highly transmissible, more contagious and can lead to more severe illness, has become the dominant strain of the disease in the United States.
Thomas Dobbs, Mississippi’s State Health Officer tweeted on Wednesday, “From 6/15-6/25–78 percent of COVID cases were Delta variant. Now seeing the predicted rise in case, hospitalizations and COVID like illnesses. If you are not immune, not vaccinated, please be careful.”
Dobbs also tweeted that of the 11 COVID related deaths announced in Mississippi on Wednesday, 10 were unvaccinated individuals.
Despite rising cases and low vaccination rates, Mississippi is determined to return to normal. Governor Tate Reeves lifted statewide mask mandates and COVID restrictions in early March, and has shown no inclination to reinstate them due to Mississippi’s current vaccination and infection rates.
In August, all eight of Mississippi’s public universities will invite students on campus with no vaccination requirement per the Institute of Higher Learning. Masks will still be required for unvaccinated individuals.
As Oxford prepares to welcome University of Mississippi students back onto campus, Lafayette county boasts one of the highest vaccination rates in the state, with 45 percent of residents having received one dose, and 42 percent being fully vaccinated according to the MSDH. This is well above the state’s average and just below the national average of 47.5 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control’s COVID Data Tracker.
As most Mississippians remain unvaccinated or wary of the vaccine, Fauci continues to urge those residents to get vaccinated and for everyone—even vaccinated Mississippians—to protect themselves to the best of their ability.
“As we’ve said so often, vaccines are not, even as good as they are and highly effective,” Fauci said. “Nothing is 100 percent.”