Death toll from virus in Mississippi grows to more than 300

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi’s death toll from COVID-19 has topped 300, with the state health department announcing Sunday that 12 more people have died from the disease.

After a single-day high of nearly 400 new cases was reported Friday, the Mississippi State Department of Health reported the number of new positive tests for the coronavirus had slowed by Sunday, with 109 more infections confirmed.

More than 7,500 Mississippians have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the data.

In an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Republican Gov. Tate Reeves called Friday’s new case announcement “a one-day blip” caused by a large number of tests being reported from out-of-state private labs, what he described as a “data dump” rather than the start of a large spike in Mississippi’s virus outbreak.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher than official counts because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick. For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For others, the highly contagious virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal.

Reeves’ “safer at home” order that started last week remains in place until May 11. It allowed some businesses to reopen with limits on how many customers may be present. Doctors were able to start offering some services that had been limited.

But restaurants must stick to takeout or delivery only, and salons, barber shops, tattoo parlors, entertainment venues and movie theaters remain closed. Gatherings of 10 or more people still are prohibited.

Reeves defended his decision to start easing restrictions on businesses despite the recent increase in confirmed virus cases and even though the state hasn’t met the White House guidance of a downward trajectory in new cases for 14 days. He told “Fox News Sunday” that Mississippi’s hospital system isn’t stressed.

“Sometimes the models are just different for different states, just like they’re different for various counties, and we believe that that particular gating criteria just doesn’t work in states like ours, who have never had more than 300 cases in any one day with the exception of Friday and that data dump,” Reeves said.

As restrictions start to loosen, Biloxi’s curfew ended Sunday morning.