Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Lafayette County COVID-19 Cases, Deaths Climb; Hospital Stretched But Not Critical

By Alyssa Schnugg
News editor

Lafayette County has seen an increase of at least 120 cases since July 31, according to data provided by the Mississippi State Department of Health.

The number of deaths in the county nearly quadrupled, going from four to 15; however, the county still has fewer deaths than most similarly-sized Mississippi counties.

Twelve of the 15 deaths were patients from long-term care facilities.

The Mississippi State Veterans Home in Oxford saw its first outbreak last week since COVID-19 was first reported. The MSDH reported 31 residents tested positive and 17 employees; however, that data is only reported weekly by MSDH. The latest report is dated July 31.

In total, there have been 87 cases as of July 31 at a long-term care facility in Lafayette County.

According to the city of Oxford’s data on its website, as of Tuesday, there are an estimated 164 active cases in the county. That number is figured by looking at reported positive cases and backing out cases that are more than 14 days old.

Since March, Lafayette County has had 937 positive cases, with the biggest jump occurring in the last four weeks. During the early weeks of the pandemic, Lafayette County averaged about 5 news cases a week.

The city asked local medical clinics in June to provide their number of positive cases. While about 10-14 started reporting, Emergency Management Coordinator Jimmy Allgood said only two have been reporting to the city in the last week.

Later, it was realized that the number of students and other part-time residents testing positive was being reported by MSDH to the state or county where they held full-time residence and were not being included in Lafayette County numbers.

According to the city, since June, 298 out-of-county part-time residents have tested positive.

The University of Mississippi has reported a total of 112 positive cases among students and faculty/staff. In the last week, there have been four reported positive cases. Those numbers are reported to MSDH and while some are included in the state’s numbers if the patient lives full-time in Oxford or Lafayette County, others with out-of-county addresses are reported elsewhere.

As of Aug. 1, 385 positive cases were in the 18-29 age group; 51 in people under 18 and three in people 90 or older. About half of the cases were in people 30-89.

About 55% of those local residents testing positive were white, about 32% were black and 14 percent were of other races.

About 56 percent of those who died in Lafayette County from the virus were white and 44 percent were black.

All reported COVID-19-related deaths in Lafayette County have been people 60 or older, as of Aug. 1; however, a 42-year-old Lafayette County school teacher who died Thursday was self-quarantining himself and is suspected of having died due to COVID-19 complications.

Lafayette County schools opened this week; however, the Oxford School District voted to delay its opening until Aug. 24 due to climbing numbers.

Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill reported that Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi has had its occupancy “stretched” but is not operating at a crisis level.

“Patients are moved every hour and capacity numbers change hourly,” she said recently, relaying information from a conversation with BMH-NS CEA Bill Henning. “The hospital has not had to divert patients and they are able to treat anyone in need of healthcare services.”

Tannehill did say the hospital currently has a “large number” of COVID-19 patients.

“Most of that is due to the recent outbreaks in our long-term care facilities,” she said.

The Oxford Board of Aldermen passed a mandate this week that citizens must wear masks indoors as well as outdoors where it is reasonably expected for people to pass within 6-feet of each other.

Gov. Tate Reeves on Tuesday passed a statewide mask mandate for inside stores and in public places.

Mississippi has had 64,295 cases since March with 1,793 deaths, according to the MSDH.