A Greenwood Leflore Hospital nurse is urging people to take precautions over the Fourth of July weekend in order to limit the spread of COVID-19.

“The past couple of weeks, we have seen the number of cases of COVID-19 slowly increase at a steady rate, but we can’t predict what will happen following the holiday,” Allison Harris, an infection prevention nurse, said in an email.

“Like other holidays we have been through since the pandemic began, such as Easter, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, it is important for people to take precautions when gathering during the Fourth of July holiday.”

Leflore County has had 474 coronavirus cases and 49 deaths since March, according to a Thursday morning report from the Mississippi State Department of Health.

At the hospital Thursday, there were six patients in its 14-bed COVID-19 unit, Christine Hemphill, the hospital’s director of communications, said in an email. All six have tested positive for the coronavirus, and three were on ventilators.

A  COVID-19 tracking tool by the Harvard Global Health Institute tracks infections over a seven-day rolling period, assigning risk levels to counties and states across the country.

According to the tool, Leflore County’s level on Thursday was  orange — one step under the highest, which is red.  

At orange, the tool recommends stay-at-home orders and rigorous testing, including testing of those who have been in contact with others with the virus.

All of the surrounding counties, including Carroll, Tallahatchie, Sunflower and Holmes, have  been assigned a red risk level by the tracking tool, suggesting stay-at-home orders are necessary to suppress the virus’ spread.

Harris said people should continue to wash their hands often, maintain a distance of 6 to 10 feet between themselves and others and wear masks when around other people.

Harris said the largest increase in COVID-19 cases in Leflore County as well as the state is among persons ages 19 to 29.

“COVID-19 is not going away, and we encourage you to continue to work together to prevent the spread of coronavirus as we resume our normal daily activities.  Know how the virus spreads and monitor yourself for signs and symptoms daily,” Harris said. “This is especially important as you are running errands, going into the office or workplace, social gatherings and other areas where it may be difficult to keep a physical distance of 6 feet.”

Doctors at the state and federal level are expressing concern about the continuing climb in cases and deaths from the coronavirus — particularly as cities and states across the country, including Greenwood and Mississippi, have reopened after weeks or months of various lockdowns.

Mississippi’s state health officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, said recently that it’s “absolutely maddening” that Mississippians don’t adhere to health guidelines such as wearing masks and practicing social distancing in order to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Dr. Anthony Fauci,  the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recently said the number of coronavirus cases in the country could reach 100,000 a day if trends continue in the wrong direction.

In nearby Grenada County, the continued transmission of COVID-19 cases in the city of Grenada and the neighboring region has filled the University of Mississippi Medical Center Grenada’s inpatient beds to capacity, according to a press release.

Sixteen patients at the hospital had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Wednesday, said Dodie McElmurray, chief executive officer of the hospital. She added that “significant numbers of hospital staff” are out because of COVID-19.

These factors, along with a possible surge in cases following the holiday weekend, could overwhelm the Grenada hospital, according to the UMMC statement.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks.

For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and even death.

The Harvard Global Health Institute’s COVID-19 tracking tool can be accessed at globalepidemics.org/key-metrics-for-covid-suppression.

•Contact Gerard Edic at 581-7239 or gedic@gwcommonwealth.com.

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