With the number of positive cases of COVID-19 reaching record daily numbers this week — nearly 5,000 over the weekend and 1,574 on Monday — the Mississippi State Department of Health has issued specific guidelines as students begin to return to the classroom Thursday.
“All eligible students, teachers, and staff 12 years of age and older should receive COVID-19 vaccination,” Health Department officials said. “Masks should be worn indoors in school settings by all individuals (age 2 and older) who are not fully vaccinated.”
Other recommendations are that schools should maintain at least three feet of physical distance between students within classrooms, combined with indoor mask wearing by people who are not fully vaccinated, to reduce transmission risk.
Routine screening testing of asymptomatic unvaccinated students, teachers and staff is recommended as an additional measure to prevent further transmission.
Schools should continue to isolate COVID-19 infected students, teachers, and staff and continue contact tracing to identify exposed individuals for quarantine and exclusion from the school setting.
All students, teachers and staff who have symptoms of any infectious illness, regardless of vaccination status, should stay home from school and be evaluated by their healthcare provider.
As a reminder, fully vaccinated students, teachers and staff:
• Do not have to wear a mask when indoors;
• Do not have to quarantine or be excluded from the school setting if they have COVID-19 exposure; and
• Do not have to be tested unless symptomatic.
Lackey Hospital posted on their Facebook page last week that “due to the rise in COVID cases, there will be NO VISITATION at Lackey Hospital and Clinics beginning Thursday 7/29 until further notice.”
Hospital CEO Sydney Sawyer, RN, said Tuesday that they are seeing more and more patients. “It’s getting bad again Sawyer said. We reopened our COVID unit, which is almost full. This stretches our staff since this is another unit to staff. I thank the Lord for the employees at Lackey who are diligently seeking to fulfill our mission to our community.
“We are now limiting visitation as we did before. This not only protects patients that do not have COVID but protects our staff as well. This was an agonizing decision for me to make but in the end I must do what I think is best for our patients and staff. If our staff gets sick we will be unable to take care of you when you are sick.
“We have reopened our drive through clinic for vaccines and testing as before. We are limiting access to the clinics as well. We will continue to use telehealth where we can.”
There is also a recommendation that anyone over 65 or anyone with a significant health risk get a booster shot at this time. Be sure to get same brand unless you received J and J in which they recommend get the Pfizer brand.
Sawyer said that the people hospitalized or the ones receiving the antibodies on an outpatient basis are overwhelmingly un-vaccinated.
“Please get vaccinated to help our community and staff get through this,” the CEO said. “Wear your mask indoors with a crowd and continue to sanitize and distance where you can.”
Tuesday, Scott County was reporting an additional 100 positive cases of the virus and one additional death since the same time last week. That brings the number of positive cases since the pandemic began in the county to 3,466 with 77 deaths.
MSDH has developed a School Based Testing Initiative to facilitate onsite screening testing for all unvaccinated asymptomatic students, teachers and staff (information available at School-Based COVID-19 Testing Initiative - Mississippi State Department of Health (ms.gov)
MSDH has also developed an Adopt-a-school Vaccination Program, working in partnership with schools and providers, to facilitate onsite COVID-19 vaccinations for all eligible students, teachers and staff. Visit https://msdh.ms.gov/AdoptASchool for additional details.