Stone County dealing with Mississippi’s fastest rise in COVID-19 cases

Published: Aug. 6, 2021 at 6:14 PM CDT
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WIGGINS, Miss. (WLOX) - Signs posted at Wiggins City Hall remind people of the new, yet familiar mandate. As of Aug. 3, employees and visitors all have to mask up when inside municipal buildings.

The mandate came two weeks after a city hall worker tested positive for COVID-19.

“We shut the building down. We had it sprayed and we had other employees tested and everyone was ok,” Mayor Darrell Berry said.

The outbreak represents a recent surge in Stone County.

From June to August, cases have increased by 12%, the fastest rise in the entire state. On July 5, MSDH reports the county had 2,426 cases and 38 deaths, which is a jump from a month ago when the area had 1,855 cases and 33 deaths.

“I guess with this new strand, it’s here, faster, quicker and running rampant,” Berry said.

With only about 18,000 people in the entire county each case, hospitalization and death hit the close-knit community hard.

“We personally know family, friends, coworkers who have had very big losses,” Stone County Hospital Nurse Practitioner Rebecca Harris said. “It affects all. It impacts all of us here.”

The tragedies families face due to the pandemic are something South Mississippi leaders hope to prevent by rolling up their sleeves.

“Me personally, I’ve had the shot. I’ve been vaccinated,” Berry said.

The mayor credits the COVID-19 vaccine for keeping him safe while working around somebody who tested positive for the virus. And it’s a lesson he hopes more people will consider as the COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

“I felt that if I did contract the virus, I would be less likely to end up in the hospital,” he said.

That’s the message Berry wants to send in order to get more people vaccinated.

Right now, Stone County has a vaccination rate of 28 percent, a number health officials say could rise soon.

“I’m really hoping that with the FDA full approval, that will encourage people to become vaccinated,” Harris said.

Until then, leaders urge people to not let up in the battle against the virus.

“Wear your mask, but most importantly of all, wash your hands,” Harris said.

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