There is much good news to report in Mississippi regarding the slowdown in the COVID-19 epidemic. While no one can claim the battle is won — there are still too many infections and deaths reported each day — it’s definitely fair to say things are better than they were this summer.
The best news is that COVID-19 fatalities, ICU patients, ventilations and hospitilizations are all down about 30 to 40 percent over the last three weeks. If this trend continues, the COVID-19 threat will be greatly diminished in another month. It may soon be time for Gov. Tate Reeves to consider lifting his various emergency restrictions.
Whether this decline is caused by human action, natural herd immunity or better treatments will be debated for years. But what is beyond debate is that the news in Mississippi, the nation and the world is good. COVID-19 is manageable. It did not overwhelm our healthcare infrastructure. Every day gets better.
And this is all without a vaccine, which may become available within a few months. If an effective vaccine is successfully deployed, the COVID crisis may be a distant memory sooner than we think.
There is an added bonus: Never before has so much money poured into viral vaccine research. This may reap huge benefits even after COVID is defeated. In fact, we may now be on the verge of a vaccine for the common cold. Our understanding of viral vaccine development has just undergone a huge leap forward.
This has come at enormous financial cost, most caused by the world’s self-inflicted over-reaction. The debt to future generations is huge. That being said, viral illnesses have historically inflicted equally huge annual economic costs. If we make a quantum leap in our understanding and treatment of viral illlnesses, we may yet get a return on our investment. The human species has shown remarkably resiliency over the eons, thanks be to God.
There has been no increase of infections that can be traced back to people ignoring mandates and getting together for the Labor Day weekend. It’s going to take another week or two of daily reports from the Department of Health to confirm this, but if Mississippi can get through a holiday without a severe spike, it would be a positive sign.
This would be different experience from this summer, when gatherings for Memorial Day and the Fourth of July holiday got blamed for a sharp increase of infections that ultimately forced state and local officials to issue mask mandates and other restrictions.
More good news is that schools that have resumed in-person classes have not been inundated with virus cases. The Department of Health reports school infections weekly, and after a month of school, a total of 829 teachers and other school employees in Mississippi have tested positive for the virus, as have 1,571 students.
Those numbers do not fully represent the impact of the virus, because once someone is confirmed to be infected, others around that adult or child must be quarantined. Last week alone, 425 teachers or other staff were in quarantine, as were 4,394 students.
And it should be noted that many schools are still using a hybrid instruction method of classrooms and online learning. Other schools remain online only, so we won’t get a full look at school infections until everyone is back in class. At least the early reports are a lot less dreadful than many people feared.
Another interesting statewide development is that the number of White infections and deaths are catching up with Black cases.
At the end of June, Black people accounted for 51% of Mississippi’s 27,000 infections, while Whites were 28%. As of Sept. 22, the state had 94,500 infections, but only 39% were Black patients, while Whites were 36%. (The remaining cases were 9% other races and 15% of an unknown ethnicity.)
Virus deaths among Black and White people are virtually the same as of Sept. 22: 1,330 Black fatalities in the state and 1,338 Whites.
Add it all up and this is what the numbers seem to say: If we can get through September without a Labor Day-related infection increase; and if we can get all kids back to school with a low, manageable number of cases, the state’s caseload should continue to decline.