Gov. Reeves responds to Mississippi’s high positivity rate; Half of state now under mask mandate

Gov. Reeves responds to Mississippi’s high positivity rate; Half of state now under mask mandate
A technician at Coast Diagnostics in Mobile runs a control sample on Wednesday. The lab processes COVID tests for about 35 South Mississippi clinics. (Source: John Fitzhugh)

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - We’ve heard it before, but again Mississippi’s state epidemiologist warned the public that we’ve got to assume that everyone we come in contact with has COVID-19. And the likelihood of that is growing with the record case numbers and what data points to as Mississippi having the highest test positivity rate in the country.

Mississippi’s seven-day moving average for test positivity is 21.68% according to data from the COVID Tracking Project and Johns Hopkins University.

Alabama and Arizona are the only other states with positivity rates above 20 percent. That’s a little less than 1 in 5 Mississippians who are learning they’ve got the virus when tested.

“That causes me to want to become more concerned about protecting myself and making sure I do whatever is given to us as directives,” noted Philip Neyland.

Johns Hopkins indicates that if the positivity rate is high, that may mean the state is only testing the sickest patients and not casting a wide enough net to know how much COVID is spreading in communities. Governor Reeves says it’s certainly one factor but not the only one he thinks should be taken into consideration.

“It’s not clear to me, based upon the data we’re reviewing, that we actually have the highest test positivity rate in the nation,” said Governor Reeves. “If you look at the data we receive on a weekly basis from the White House Coronavirus Task Force is, I think, the best data you can possible use. And so what they said our test positivity rate was last week was about 15.4 percent.”

But the report he’s referencing is only looking at data from July 18-24 which may account for some of those differences. Even still, he says he doesn’t want to belittle the high rate.

“Our test positivity rate is way too high whether it’s 16 percent or 26 percent. We had it down to between six and seven percent with a low number of tests in late May and we want it below 5 percent.”

Still, the high case and death numbers along with the positivity rate has folks stepping back and re-evaluating what they’re doing. “Only time I basically come out is when I have to do basic essential things like shopping at the store or taking care of a little business.”

With the addition of eight more hotspot counties, that makes 37 counties statewide who are under a mask mandate. As we’ve reported previously, it’s more than half of the state’s population now required to wear them.

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