No new COVID regulations expected in Oxford as students return for spring semester

OXFORD, Miss. — Twenty-four thousand students returned to Ole Miss for the start of the spring semester on Tuesday, more than doubling the city of Oxford’s population.

Their return comes as the surge of the omicron COVID variant continues. The city’s mayor and board of aldermen met Tuesday night to discuss COVID numbers.

As FOX13 found out, new regulations are not likely to happen. One of the numbers that they discuss at these COVID meetings is hospitalizations because Baptist Oxford doesn’t only serve Lafayette County. It serves 14 counties in all.

”Our numbers are high as they are across the state and the nation. We have 57 COVID-positive patients at Baptist Hospital. Seven of those are in ICU,” Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill said.

Tannehill said that 73 percent of the patients hospitalized with COVID at Baptist Oxford are from other counties.

”The regulations in Oxford do not have a big effect on keeping our hospital numbers down,” the Mayor said.

Hospital officials wouldn’t provide a number but said beds are still available and the hospital is not at capacity. Right now, the city has a mask mandate only in place in city buildings where social distancing isn’t doable.

Some people said with the students back the city needs to reconsider.

“I think they need to bring it back again ASAP,” Mary Thompson of Oxford said.

”I think they should. They should have a mask now until omicron goes down and maybe we can get over the hump of it,” John Hirst of Oxford said.

Board members told FOX13 that the city’s mandate that required masks to be worn in businesses and in gatherings was too hard for police to enforce. The hope is omicron will die off in a few weeks.

Data from the Mississippi State Department of Health shows a nearly 22 percent increase in COVID cases since the start of the year and that was with Ole Miss on winter break.