The latest COVID-19 surge in Mississippi resulting from the Delta variant is hitting the younger population, too, along with growing concerns over students' return to school next month.
A Mississippi Today report said State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs posted on Twitter early this week that seven minors have been admitted at the hospital because of Delta variant infections in Mississippi, and two of them are currently on ventilators.
The earlier COVID-19 strains were much less infectious and did not infect children to the point seen with the Delta variant.
Over the past three weeks, the number of confirmed Delta cases in the state has increased almost sevenfold from 29 to 231.
Those more than 200 cases only embody a small surveillance sample, though, and thus, it is undoubtedly just a small portion of the Delta infections in Mississippi.
Impact on Back-to-School Plans
In an interview, Dobbs forecasted that infections in the younger population would lead to a large wave of infections and adversely impact school district plans to completely open with in-person classes.
The official said it is going to be disruptive, adding, he thinks the Delta variant "is going to take its toll" on having a successful, exciting school year as students will need to be quarantined, they will need to be isolated. "We're going to have outbreaks," he added.
What such outbreaks to appear will be reliant on virus spread in the surrounding community of a school district and the policies of school districts on mask-wearing and social distancing since no requirements will be taking place at the state level.
Mississippi Governor Jonathon Tate Reeves' press secretary Bail Martin said in an email; the former has no intention of necessitating students or staff to put on masks when they are in school this Fall.
The CDC Releases New Guidance
On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidance, urging schools to reopen fully in the fall, identifying safe in-person instruction as a priority.
According to the agency, all people who are not fully vaccinated need to wear masks while inside school buildings, and classrooms need to keep at least three feet of physical distance between students.
Nonetheless, they said that schools need to skip the distance recommendation if it would preempt them from reopening fully and rather depend on other prevention schemes.
Early this month, State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said MSDH would release Mississippi — specific components to back-to-school guidance, including recommended mask wearing for unvaccinated students and teachers.
The differences between individual school districts' strategies to limiting the spread of the virus can already be seen in their back-to-school plans.
Masks will be a requirement in all Jackson Public Schools, for instance, although Clinton and Madison County schools will begin the fall semester off with masks being optional.
Recommendation to Vaccinate Minors
Most of the minors in Mississippi, a similar Parent Security report said, are not presently vaccinated. The MSDH stated, only six percent of 12 to 15 year-olds are fully vaccinated, and only 13 percent of 16 to 17-year-olds are.
Despite the widespread availability of vaccines and the risks postured by variants, Mississippi continues ranking the last in the country in the share of its vaccinated population. With more than two million shots provided, only 31 percent of Mississippians have received full vaccination.
A component of the plan of MSDH to increase the number of vaccinated minors is making vaccinations available in schools.
Every school district in Mississippi has the option to partner with a vaccine provider to provide shots on-site, although it is not clear how many will utilize the opportunity. Dobbs said they are hoping that they all take advantage of it.
The recommendations MSDH released last week, in response to this particular COVID-19 surge, are all people 12 years old and above to get vaccinated.
Dobbs has explained that the risk of severe results among infected minors is slight but is still present, and there is a much higher risk that will circulate the virus to anyone more susceptible.
Related information about the Delta variant affecting children in Mississippi is shown on WJTV 12 News's YouTube video below:
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