Health officials concerned for COVID-19 cases amid new mask mandate

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LOWNDES COUNTY, Miss. (WCBI)- Following Governor Tate Reeves order to lift the mask mandate for the state of Mississippi, one of the most impacted professions now prepare for a possible increase in new cases.

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Although the Mississippi State Department of Health has reported fewer case numbers over the last two weeks, local doctors are wary of the relaxed restrictions.

Some say now is the time for the public to get vaccinated.

“The virus is still there. It’s going to be here for the foreseeable future,” said the Chief Medical Officer of Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle, Dr.James Martin.

Keep your masks on. It’s the message Martin has for the community.

On Wednesday, Governor Tate Reeves lifted the statewide mask mandate, allowing cities and counties to enforce a separate mandate if they choose.

“There are still a lot of people that are not vaccinated. We still have to stay the course, and we’re trying to make sure we’re doing our best to protect everybody,” said Martin.

Dr. Martin is hopeful local clinics and hospitals will continue to push the vaccine to more folks.

“Here at Baptist, we’ve done a pretty good job of vaccinating our employees. We’ve done a good job of vaccinating the public as soon as we get the vaccine. We’re offering it to everyone,” said Martin.

Hundreds of doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine were distributed to the vulnerable population and eligible personnel.

“I think we’re past the surges that we’ve had. Unfortunately, a large percentage of the population has had the virus. We’re getting closer and closer to herd immunity. I think we’re past the worst of it, but we still need to be cognitive of what we’re doing,” said Martin.

With a new order in place, he’s urging Mississippians to continue the low curve of cases.

“We’re going to keep our same practice in place and the mask mandate here in the hospital. We are taking actions like hand washing, social distancing, checking temperatures when they come in, and limiting visitors,” said Martin.

Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle will receive the Johnson and Johnson vaccine soon. Doses will be available to those who are eligible.