TUPELO • Mississippi on Saturday saw a record total of new COVID-19 cases reported in a single day, surpassing the previous record total from late July even as local, state and national medical figures warn that upcoming Thanksgiving festivities could seed a devastating rise of infections.

The Mississippi State Department of Health on Saturday reported 1,972 more cases of COVID-19. The previous single-day record came on July 30 where 1,775 cases were reported.

Also on Saturday, 15 new COVID-19 deaths were reported, with the Northeast Mississippi counties of Lafayette, Lee and Marshall each reporting one new death.

The July record total of new cases came amid a later summer spike that Mississippi’s health leaders at least partially linked to widespread social gatherings and festivities over the Independence Day holiday.

With that in mind, Mississippi’s State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs has warned that if widespread Thanksgiving travel and social gatherings occur, it will have serious consequences.

“It’s a perfect storm for an explosive outbreak of coronavirus,” Dobbs said in a press briefing last week.

Stressing the point, Dobbs noted that holidays will bring together older and younger generations, bringing those more likely to suffer serious illness and death from COVID-19 into close proximity with those more likely to be asymptomatic transmitters of the disease.

“We will see deaths, absolutely, around holiday gatherings,” said Dobbs.

The head of the state’s Health Department suggested that families restrict holiday gatherings.

“Keep it small, keep it nuclear, with your closest family,” Dobbs said.

Statistics on case outcomes made available by North Mississippi Health Services depict the pandemic’s sharper toll on older adults.

Between March 1 and October 1, more than half of all patients hospitalized within NMHS for COVID-19 were over the age of 65, with a mortality rate of 24.4 percent for hospitalized COVID-19 patients over the age of 65.

During that same period, the mortality rate for all patients was 19.2 percent. Patients over the age of 65 accounted for about 74 percent of all COVID-19 deaths at NMHS during the reported period.

And amid an information environment laden with conspiracies and skepticism, NMHS Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jeremy Blanchard condemned the suggestion from some quarters that hospitals are inflating their numbers of COVID-19 patients for financial purposes.

“Are any of our physicians overcoding for covid? Are they getting paid more if they code for covid? The answer is absolutely no,” Blanchard said in a recent interview with the Daily Journal. “And frankly, I was offended when President Trump said that. Not in a political way – I would be offended if anyone said that. What we have done, we’ve allowed that coding to be based on the clinical care that the provider is providing.”

Headed into a season marked by colder temperatures and the possibility of large holiday gatherings, Blanchard underscored that mitigation measures remain effective if widely adopted.

“If people chose to mask, if they just chose to mask and social distance, our economy in Mississippi would be back to normal,” Blanchard said. “If people choose to social distance indoors and wear a mask, we won’t have an issue, but I’m worried people won’t do that.”

caleb.bedillion@journalinc.com

Twitter: @CalebBedillion

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