MSDH recommends all unvaccinated wear a mask when indoors in public settings

JACKSON, Miss. — The Mississippi State Department of Health issued new COVID-19 guidance Friday.

The new recommendations are due to the rapid rise of Delta variant cases and outbreaks, combined with the low overall immunization rate in the state.

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State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs is recommending all unvaccinated people wear masks while indoors.

The MSDH said people over 65 and those with underlying health conditions should avoid all indoor gatherings even if they are vaccinated.

“You may ask why are we doing that? Well, we have a lot of COVID circulating right now, unfortunately, and it’s pretty much all Delta,” Dr. Dobbs said. “We know it’s very contagious and it may have an increased mortality rate as well.”

Dr. Dobbs isn’t pleased that Mississippi has the lowest vaccination rate in the country, especially with the Delta variant ramping up.

“We are also seeing some deaths in the vaccinated folks because we put them at risk because we are exposing them over and over again,” Dr. Dobbs said. “Also, our people who are immunocompromised or have weakened immune systems, we know they don’t respond to the vaccine quite as well.”

Health leaders have seen an increase in hospitalizations and expect to see more deaths over the next few weeks.

Most of those deaths are people who didn’t get vaccinated.

Still, some people aren’t as worried as others.

“Not a concern to me at all,” said Mississippi resident Reno Chancellor. “It’ll be like the flu. You’ll have to get vaccinated every year.”

“I’m going to wear my mask until it’s over,” Laverick Roach said. “I’m going to wear my mask now until the end.”

Roach plans on getting vaccinated very soon. He said his mother died from cancer two years ago, so he understands the importance of wearing a mask and protecting others with underlying conditions.

“So many different variants now, like you said, you don’t know,” said Roach.

Health officers hope the new guidance will save lives.

“We don’t want anybody to die needlessly,” said Dr. Dobbs. “For this distinct moment in time, we are at a uniquely increased risk since we had a drop from the wintertime.”

The new guidance also asks everyone 12 and up to get the vaccination.

FOX13 was told state leaders are working with grassroots organizations and medical providers to encourage people to get shots.