Breaking Down COVID-19 with WCBI’s Cash Matlock


COLUMBUS, MISS. (WCBI) – The numbers change every day.

When it comes to Coronavirus, it’s the Health Department’s job to make decisions based on the number of positive cases throughout the state.

Governor Tate Reeves extended his “Safe Recovery” executive order through December 11th, but a few things are different.

Some counties have been dropped from the mandate, like Chickasaw who only saw 58 cases from October 19 to November 1st.

Two counties in the WCBI viewing area will still be impacted though… That’s Lee and Yalobusha. Lee County has seen 338 new cases within that same time frame.

So how does the Governor determine which counties need a mask mandate and which counties don’t?

How do schools determine if they will meet in person or go virtual?

And how are hospitals handling the growing number of cases?

For the governor, the process is a little complicated.

He looks at a formula that views 500 new cases for every 100,000 people over a 2 week period, or 200 new cases total over a two week period. For example, Yalobusha County only has a population of just over 12,000 people. If they hit 200 cases within a two-week time frame, they meet the mask mandate criteria set by the state.

That means when the Governor holds a press conference, there’s a delay in information.

For example, if Reeves speaks on a Tuesday, his case numbers are usually from a week or two weeks earlier.

School districts have guidelines from the state education department. Each district has a safe at school plan that sets a threshold for positive cases. If the district hits its number, then students go to online classes.

Just this week, Starkville Oktibbeha Consolidated School District, Pontotoc Junior High, and Houlka Attendance Center announced alternative plans that involve virtual learning because of case numbers either in their district or in their county.

Hospitals in Columbus, Starkville, and Tupelo report their bed availability to the health department numbers.

For example, as of November 11th, Baptist Golden Triangle has 18 total ICU beds.

But 5 of those beds are being occupied by COVID-19 patients, leaving only 3 open ICU beds.

So what happens if there’s a wreck or another emergency?

Let’s talk about another example in Starkville.

At OCH Regional Medical Center, there are 6 staffed ICU beds, 2 of them have COVID patients, and only 1 other bed is available today.

And in Tupelo at North Mississippi Medical Center, they have 46 staffed ICU beds, with 11 of them occupied by COVID patients, leaving only 10 beds open today.

Right now we’re seeing the highest case numbers in months.

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