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Summer sports, bar hopping cause Mississippi virus spike, state official says

Cases of coronavirus in Mississippi are growing fastest among teenagers and people in their 20s, fueled by outdoor get-togethers and people going to bars or attending summer sporting events, the state’s top health official said Thursday.

“I am worried about some of the over-exuberance of some of the summer sports stuff,” said the state health officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs. “I think it’s a little bit reckless, to be quite honest.”

Although many young people are asymptomatic, that population has been passing the virus onto parents and grandparents through community transmission, which has contributed to higher numbers of new cases of the virus and hospitalizations, Dobbs said.

Gov. Tate Reeves on Thursday said he expects to impose more restrictions on bars and expand his mask mandate by the end of the week because of increasing cases of coronavirus in Mississippi. He has not said anything about placing restrictions on summer sports.

“We want to make sure that we limit the ability of those age groups where the virus is spreading the fastest to continue that,” Reeves said. He said he will not be shutting bars down completely, as state leaders in Texas and Florida have done.

Reeves has mandated that people who live in 23 counties with the highest number of coronavirus cases wear masks in public places. He said numbers of new cases have gone down in several counties since the mask mandate, which he described as “not a sign of success, but a sign of hope.”

The governor said he’s discouraged by the apathy that he sees around social distancing and wearing masks, especially in young people.

“There were times in this pandemic when fear was really over the top,” he said. “Now, the pendulum has really swung it seems in which we have too many people acting as if this virus doesn’t exist, being careless. They are acting as if they are only worried about themselves. ‘They can beat the virus and so why does it matter?’”

Reeves is expected to announce the new restrictions Friday. On Thursday night, the Mississippi State Department of Health was scheduled to host a virtual town mall meeting in Spanish to provide information about the virus to the Hispanic/Latino community and listen to people’s questions and concerns.

Mississippi has a population of about 3 million. The Health Department said Thursday that the state has had at least 48,053 confirmed cases and at least 1,436 deaths from COVID-19 as of Wednesday evening. That’s an increase of 982 confirmed cases and 13 deaths from numbers reported the day before.

At least 3,272 cases of the virus have been confirmed in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes, with at least 671 virus-related deaths in those facilities, the department said.