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Reeves says new cases down in nearly 80% of state; 1 new death in Lincoln County

New COVID-19 cases are declining steadily in more than 80% of the state’s 82 counties, Gov. Tate Reeves said in a Thursday afternoon conference.

Reeves attributed the decrease to people’s commitment to wearing masks and social distancing, but also urged Mississippians not to become complacent. 

“The numbers are going down. Let’s be happy about that, but let’s not rest,” Reeves said. “Let’s not ignore it. Let’s fight and continue to crush this virus.”

The Mississippi State Department of Health reported 944 new coronavirus cases Friday and 32 new deaths, including one new death in Lincoln County.

Lincoln County’s positive case total is now 862, up 28 from Tuesday.

Reeves said the decreases have been seen in more than 70 counties, but “there’s more work to do” in Forrest, Jones, Lee, Union, Bolivar and Panola counties, where officials are still seeing a considerable number of positive test results. He urged county leaders to enforce the mask mandate and orders limiting crowd sizes and restaurant capacities.

Friday, Reeves extended the social distancing measures an additional two weeks until Aug. 31 at 8 a.m. Reeves also amended the Safe Return order, placing an attendance cap on all K-12 extracurricular activities, such as football and band concerts, to no more than two spectators per participant. Each extracurricular event must have a dedicated Safety Officer to ensure all social distancing measures are followed as well.

“Sports and these other activities are instrumental in the lives of our young Mississippians. They teach discipline and responsibility in a way that can’t be replicated,” said Reeves. “That said, we are living through a pandemic. One of my greatest concerns heading into this school season has been sports and those other events which cause the community to come out in crowds. Twenty-two players on a field is not going to overwhelm a local hospital. Two thousand people in a small school’s bleachers might.”

MSDH reported 612 new confirmed cases and 22 deaths on Thursday, pushing the state’s total cases over the 2,000 mark, to 2,011.

With the exception of Wednesday, when the Mississippi State Department of Health reported 1,081 new virus cases, officials have reported well under 1,000 new cases of the virus each day this week. That represents a change from the past several weeks where the state was averaging over 1,000 cases a day.

Wednesday had one of the higher single-death tolls the state has seen, with 45 new deaths reported.

Reeves said hospitalizations and deaths are a lagging indicator when it comes to measuring the spread of the virus now, because people who die from virus complications usually stay in the hospital for three to four weeks.

He added that now is the time for Mississippians to come together, regardless of political differences. He closed his remarks by saying “the virus doesn’t care who you voted for in the 2016 elections.”

The Health Department said Thursday that Mississippi, with a population of about 3 million, has had at least 69,986 reported cases of COVID-19 as of Tuesday evening.

The true number of virus infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick. For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe or fatal illness.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.