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Covid Cases Creep Up

WATER VALLEY – The number of confirmed Covid cases in Yalobusha County in December could triple from the previous month following a surge earlier this week. The Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) reported 31 new cases in the county Tuesday, bringing the total case count in December to 123 –  up from 58 cases during the entire month of November.

MSDH reports the number of Covid-related deaths in the county remains 47, with the last fatality recorded on Sept. 10. There were four deaths reported in August and two in September. MSDH also reports that 63 percent of Yalobusha County residents, or 7,597 people, are fully vaccinated. Only Jefferson County has a higher vaccination rate with 65 percent of its population fully vaccinated.

While the Delta variant remains the overwhelmingly predominate strain in the state, the number of Covid 19’s Omicron variant cases continue to grow prompting a reminder from experts that getting vaccinated and boosted remains the best way to protect against serious infection.

“There are a lot of questions related to transmission, how effective the current vaccines will be, and whether there will be any different symptoms,” said Dr. Bhagyashri Navalkele, assistant professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases and medical director of infection prevention at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

But for now, Navalkele and other experts say, “all adults 18 years and above who are eligible to receive booster shots should go ahead and receive it without any delay to improve immune response against ongoing Delta variant and emerging Omicron variant.”

Compared to the original SARS CoV-2 virus, Navalkele said, “we do know that it’s likely highly transmissible. In comparison to the Delta variant, we don’t know how severe the disease can be, or if it will result in a surge in hospitalizations and deaths. Because there are so few cases, we will have to wait and see.”

Experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agree what we know so far about Omicron is limited, although some data is emerging about the possible effectiveness against Omicron of the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson. But, the Omicron variant likely will spread more easily than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus, the CDC said this week on its website.

The CDC expects that anyone with Omicron infection can spread the virus to others, even if they are vaccinated or don’t have symptoms. There are cases of Omicron variant breakthrough infection reported worldwide, but most experts believe the current vaccines and boosters will offer about the same protection as they do for the  Delta variant in preventing severe illness, hospitalizations and death, the CDC says.

The best protection for Mississippians at this point? The vaccinations and booster, said Dr. Thomas Dobbs, Mississippi State Department of Health state health officer and UMMC associate professor of population health. All Americans ages 18 and above are eligible for a booster six months after they’re fully vaccinated, and children ages 5 and up can receive the two-dose Pfizer vaccine.

About 47 percent of Mississippi adults are vaccinated, the fourth-worst vaccination rate in the nation behind Idaho, the worst, Wyoming and Alabama.

“We were prepared for the appearance of this variant in Mississippi, and we need to remember that Delta is still a very active variant of COVID-19 currently in the state, as well,” Dobbs said Monday in a news release.

“Vaccines remain the best public health measure to protect people from COVID-19, slow the transmission rate, and reduce the likelihood of new variants emerging. COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and death.”

Dr. Mary Taylor, Suzan B. Thames Chair and professor of pediatrics, said the advice given for adults also applies to children.

“We know how to limit the spread of COVID-19 and its variants,” she said. “Good hand hygiene including hand washing and using hand sanitizer, wearing face masks indoors and protecting children ages 5 and older with vaccination against COVID-19 are all steps we can take to protect our families against infection.”

Efficacy of the vaccines against infection from Omicron might drop from the 94-95 percent efficacy of Pfizer and Moderna immunizations, Navalkele said. “But, it should still remain effective in protecting against severe disease, hospitalizations and death based on knowledge from previous studies performed on other variants.”

It’s also unknown whether monoclonal antibodies will be effective in preventing severe disease and hospitalization from Omicron, Navalkele said, “but we encourage patients to take advantage of available treatment options. Our monoclonal antibody treatment recommendations will be the same as with the Delta variant. But, we will have to wait and see if that changes with Omicron.”

Children ages 5 to 11 can receive the Pfizer vaccine through the UMMC Children’s of Mississippi’s Batson Kids Clinic, 421 S. Stadium Circle near Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson. Make an appointment online at or call (601) 815-5300 or (888) 815-2005.

“We know that COVID-19 can easily spread from adults to children, and within households, it’s super- transmissible, so we need to encourage all who are eligible ages 5 and up to get vaccination as soon as possible,” said Dr. Charlotte Hobbs, professor of pediatric infectious diseases.

Vaccinations for Mississippians of all ages are available from health care providers, federally qualified health centers, independent and retail pharmacies, and county health departments.

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