Since lifting capacity restrictions on outdoor events, Mississippi’s COVID numbers have gone down and stayed down.
Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves lifted the state’s COVID-19 mask orders for businesses and public venues on March 2, 2021. He further allowed stadiums and arenas to operate at 50% capacity at that time. K-12 schools were the only places where masks were required.
Then, on April 30, 2021, Governor Reeves announced that capacity limits on indoor arenas and outdoors venues were lifted, allowing for sports and event spaces to return to normal. K-12 schools continue to be the only places where masks are required.
During this period, large gatherings have occurred in Mississippi, primarily on college campuses in Forrest, Oktibbeha, and Lafayette counties as the University of Southern Mississippi, Mississippi State and Ole Miss have all hosted Spring football games as well as nationally promoted college baseball games. All three baseball programs are ranked and drawing large crowds as they make their push toward hosting regionals in the month ahead.
On April 17, 2021, Mississippi State hosted Ole Miss in a key SEC matchup with national seeding implications. That contest drew over 13,300 fans to the Starkville game at Dudy Noble Field. In fact, that game was not far off of the all-time on-campus attendance record of 15,586 set in April 2014.
Since that time (April 17 through May 5), transmission rates statewide have cumulatively increased 1.21%. Forest County cases increased 1.23%, Lafayette cases increased 1.497%, and Oktibbeha cases increased 0.677%. Similarly, in Hinds County, cases have increased 1.421%. Those figures do not indicate a correlative effect between large baseball gatherings and major increases in localized COVID transmission.
Given previous CDC guidance advising against large outdoor events, one could assume if COVID cases were highly transmissible in these outdoor events that cases would noticeably spike (at least relative to the state average) in those counties as fans poured into stadiums to see games.
Yet, there appears to be no meaningful correlation between these large events and COVID-19 outbreaks during the period after Governor Reeves ended the order on masks and lifted capacity restrictions. Trendlines in those counties have generally been unchanged.
Here is the data from the Mississippi Department of Health from Forrest, Oktibbeha, and Lafayette Counties over the past seven weeks.
Since March 6, Forrest County has reported an increase of 311 cases through April 24, an average of 44.4 cases per week. Compare that to the county’s one week peak of 358 cases in December 2020. Forrest County’s total cases stand at 7,606 as of that report. See the chart below.
Since March 6, Oktibbeha County has reported an increase of 157 cases through April 24, an average of 22.4 cases per week. Compare that to the county’s one week peak of 264 cases in January 2021. Oktibbeha County’s total cases stand at 4,589 as of that report. See the chart below.
Since March 6, Lafayette County has reported an increase of 350 cases through April 24, an average of 50 cases per week. Compare that to the county’s one week peak of 352 cases in January 2021. Lafayette County’s total cases stand at 6,118 as of that report. See the chart below.
In the Magnolia State, the current 7-day average case numbers sit at 174.1 as of May 6, 2021. That is down from over 2,000 in early January 2021. As the chart below indicates, since Governor Reeves lifted the mask order and capacity restrictions and more Mississippians get vaccinated, cases have continued to decline.
Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, the total COVID-19 cases in Mississippi stands at 313,166 with MSDH reporting 301,872 presumed to have recovered to date. MSDH reports that 7,228 deaths have occurred attributable in whole or in part to COVID.
Request for comment from MSDH was not received at time of publication.
A spokesperson for Governor Tate Reeves told Y’all Politics that he continues to trust Mississippians to the make the right decisions for themselves.
“As Governor Reeves has always said, he trusts Mississippians to make the right choices and clearly – as the numbers show – they have risen to the occasion to keep themselves and their neighbors safe,” Bailey Martin said.