Post-holiday explosion of 56 virus cases seen in county

by Sean Dunlap

Coronavirus infections spiked by 56 cases in Franklin County for the seven-day period ending Tuesday, Jan. 4, according to numbers provided by the Mississippi Department of Health.

In all, 1,350 cumulative cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Franklin County since the pandemic began in March, 2020.

On Tuesday, Dec. 28, FC’s case count stood at 1,294.

Additionally, 32 deaths attributed to the illness have been reported in the county over the past 22 months.

No new fatalities have been reported locally during the past seven days.

Statewide, as of Sunday, Jan. 1, some 695 residents were hospitalized with coronavirus — an increase from the 265 reported to be in healthcare facilities just two weeks ago.

The state health agency reported there were 17,525 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed across the Magnolia State between Thursday, Dec. 30 and Sunday, Jan. 1 — just days after Christmas gatherings.

Dr. Paul Byers characterized the latest numbers as Mississippi’s “fifth wave” of coronavirus infections — with the Delta variant causing a rise in cases during July and August and the Omicron variant now on the increase among the population.

“We’re seeing reports of increased outbreaks occurring after social gatherings ... really any place people are gathering and especially indoors,” Byers said.

“When you look at overall (COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations) in Mississippi, we’re at high to substantial levels of community transmission in all parts of the state.”

Based on early data, Byers characterized the Omicron variant as significantly more infectious than the Delta variant.

The medical community remains uncertain if Omicron causes more severe disease symptoms compared to previous variants.

Still, officials say it’s important to remember even a relatively mild case of COVID-19 can cause long-haul symptoms that can last for weeks or even months after the illness has passed.

Among the current federal and state safety recommendations being issued regarding coronavirus are:

• Get vaccinated as a means to limit serious illness that can lead to hospitalizations.

“Make sure you’re fully vaccinated and get a booster vaccine if you are eligible,” Byers said.

• Wear a mask. A mask will protect you and those around you from COVID-19 variants.

The Centers for Disease Control suggests you wear a mask in public indoor areas, regardless if you’ve had the coronavirus vaccine or not.

• Social distancing is important in helping slow the general spread of the illness.

• Open windows to improve ventilation in confined spaces — especially at work or in the home.

• Keep hands clean with frequent washing techniques using soap and hot water along with the use of hand sanitizers when hand-washing facilities are not present.

• Stay away from crowded or poorly ventilated areas and buildings.

Across Mississippi, as of Tuesday, Jan. 4, the statewide coronavirus infection count stood at 561,262 — a cumulative total dating back to the start of the pandemic.

Additionally, 10,455 Mississippians have died as a result of the illness.

The health department reports 3,870 — or 50 percent — of Franklin Countians have received at least one dose of the shot while 3,516 (46 percent) are considered to be fully vaccinated as of this week.

Additionally, 1,565,987 (51 percent) of Mississippians have received at least one dose of the vaccination and 1,399,677 (44 percent) are now considered fully vaccinated.

Franklin County Memorial Hospital in Meadville continues to administer COVID-19 shots and boosters on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

To schedule an appointment for a shot or booster, call 601-384-8264.