The Mississippi State Department of Health has not released statistics showing the race of people testing positive or dying from the new coronavirus, but a top official says he thinks black residents have been disproportionately affected, as they have been in some other states.
“The early indications are, we’re seeing similar here in Mississippi — that it is impacting the African American community at a little higher rate,” Jim Craig, the department’s senior deputy and director of the Office of Health Protection, said in response to a question during a news conference Monday.
Mississippi’s coronavirus caseload grew to 1,915 as of Monday evening, with 59 deaths, the Health Department said Tuesday. That is an increase of 177 cases and eight deaths from the previous day. The state has about 3 million residents.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the highly contagious virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal.
Gov. Tate Reeves said Monday that many people in the state have “unique risks.”
Mississippi has high rates of heart disease, diabetes and asthma. The state also has a high poverty rate and a large percentage of uninsured residents who might be less likely to seek preventative medical care for chronic conditions.
Most of the people who have died of COVID-19 in Mississippi are 60 or older, and the outbreak has spread to at least 38 long-term care facilities, the state said Tuesday.
The most-populated areas are seeing the largest caseloads. These include three counties in the metro Jackson area — Hinds, Rankin and Madison; DeSoto County in the northwestern corner of the state bordering Tennessee; coastal Harrison and Jackson counties; and south Mississippi’s Pearl River County, which borders hard-hit Louisiana and is a place where people commute to work and shop between the two states.
But some areas with smaller populations are seeing growing caseloads.
Bolivar County is in the Delta, with about 30,600 people, 64% African American, according to the Census. It had 54 confirmed coronavirus cases and two deaths by Monday evening.
Wilkinson County is in the southwestern corner of the state, bordering Louisiana. Its population of about 8,600 is 71% African American. It has 32 confirmed cases and three deaths.
The Health Department said Tuesday that 20,370 coronavirus tests had been done in the state, by public and private labs, as of Sunday. Cases were reported in 80 of 82 counties.
Reeves has said people should limit their outings to essential errands like grocery shopping. He said law enforcement officers will break up big groups of people who are out socializing. Grocery stores, pharmacies and other businesses deemed essential will remain open.
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