Edney: ‘We believe the mask mandate turned our numbers around’
For nearly 50 days, mask mandates have been a way of life for residents in Vicksburg and Warren County.
The city’s mandate, which ordered residents to wear a mask or face covering in businesses and public buildings, went into effect July 18, while the mandate ordered by the Warren County Board of Supervisors went into effect two days later.
Weeks later, on Aug. 4, Gov. Tate Reeves issued a mask mandate for the entire state.
It is those orders that local officials firmly believe has helped drive down the number of COVID-19 cases, not just in Warren County, but the state overall. It is also that effectiveness that is likely going to lead to local and state lawmakers extending mask mandates for weeks to come.
“We all believe the mask mandate turned our numbers around. Our hospitals were reaching the breaking point and then after the mask order, all numbers improved including numbers in the hospital. It’s now stabilizing at about 50 percent of our peak,” said Dr. Dan Edney, with Medical Associates in Vicksburg. Edney is a member of the governor’s COVID-19 task force, as well as a COVID-19 advisor to Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr.
The mask mandates were ordered at a time when the number of new cases were spiking after the Fourth of July holiday weekend. When the city and county issued their mandates, the county was seeing an average of 12.5 new cases per day. In the two weeks following, that average went even higher, to as much as 20.7 cases per day on July 30.
During that time, the county crossed the two thresholds the state was using to declare certain counties virus hot spots. Warren County went above those thresholds on July 22 and then fell below them exactly one month later on Aug. 22.
Then, the number of cases has dropped significantly. As of Thursday, Warren County had seen just 7.71 new cases over the previous seven days. Edney said even the number of people seeking tests has declined at his office.
“Our clinic testing has declined related to fewer exposures and fewer patients with symptoms. However, the flu has started early and the health department has advised starting flu vaccinations now,” Edney said. “We’re hoping more people will get the flu shot to keep those numbers as low as we can as it’s expected that COVID will have another surge this fall.
As for the flu, Edney believes the measures that are in place now to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus should help in limiting the number of flu cases the area sees this season.
“When people try to compare this to the flu numbers and deaths, remember that we have never had to do severe mitigation in our lifetime with flu. Flu shots, sneezing/coughing into our elbows, and washing hands is all we’ve ever done,” he said. “We’ve never gone through a flu season with aggressive mitigation like we’re currently doing. If we continue doing what we’re doing, then flu and COVID should both be better controlled and we can avert a shutdown.”
At a press conference scheduled for Friday, Flaggs is expected to announce the city will extend its mask mandate. The Warren County Board of Supervisors, during its meeting Tuesday, is likely to extend the county’s mask mandate through at least Oct. 5.