By Alyssa Schnugg
Since Friday, Lafayette County has had 134 new cases of COVID-19 reported, according to the Mississippi State Department of Health.
Some local health officials said the uptick in reported positive cases is partly due to the University of Mississippi students getting tested before returning home last week and Oxford residents testing before going to family gatherings for Thanksgiving.
Oxford Emergency Management Coordinator Jimmy Allgood said last week that contact tracing has shown most new cases originating from large social gatherings.
Three COVID-19-related deaths over the weekend were also reported Monday by the MSDH in Lafayette County. There have been 52 deaths since March, with 32 occurring in long-term care facilities.
One of those deaths was former Ole Miss Rebel Hoppy Langley, who died Saturday after losing his battle against COVID-19. He was a kicker for the Rebel football team from 1976-1980 and is often hailed as the Rebel’s all-time “best kicker.” Langley and his wife, Stephanie had lived in Memphis for 25 years but returned to Oxford in 2019.
As of Monday, there have been 3,349 cases of COVID-19 since March. In the month of November, there were 735 new cases reported.
According to the city of Oxford’s COVID-19 data, as of Sunday, there were 308 active cases in Lafayette County.
The rise in cases placed Lafayette County as the ninth highest number of new cases from Nov. 9-22, according to the MSDH.
Gov. Tate Reeves included Lafayette in his mandatory mask order last week.
The Oxford Middle School campus was closed the week before Thanksgiving, and students returned to online classes. Lafayette Middle School and High School students also went to a full virtual schedule for the week. Students in both school districts returned to school Monday.
The Oxford School District reported that five high school teachers tested positive last week. The Lafayette County School District has not posted updated numbers as of Monday afternoon.
The University of Mississippi reported 29 new cases in the last week, even though the semester ended and students were required to leave campus by Wednesday. Ten of the 29 new cases were among faculty/staff members. The campus has had 952 cases since August.
Despite the rise in cases, Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi is still reporting available beds both in general rooms and in the ICU; however, there was an increase in the number of COVID-19 patients in the hospital.
Two weeks ago, there were 34 people in the hospital that had tested positive for COVID-19. As of Sunday, the MSDH reported 52 COVID-19 patients were at BMH-MS. Of the hospital’s 181 staffed beds, there were 44 available on Sunday. There were seven patients in the ICU with COVID-19. Of the 24 total ICU beds, 10 were available on Sunday.
However, the MSDH reported hospitalizations across the state reached a record high Monday, and ICU bed occupancy is very high, with 1,008 people currently in one of Mississippi’s hospitals with COVID-19, 238 patients in an ICU ward and 107 people on ventilators.
“When cases rise, hospitalizations and deaths follow. If you’re not doing your part to stop the spread, it’s urgent that you start. Avoid large gatherings, keep a safe distance from others, and wear a mask in public places,” stated the MSDH on its Facebook page Monday.