COVID-19 appears to be rearing its ugly head once again.

  Just when it seemed the pandemic caused by a virus originating in Wuhan, China seemed to be in full retreat, it appears to be coming back.

  “We had not had anyone in our COVID unit for a couple of months,” George Regional Health Systems CEO Greg Havard said on Monday. “Last week we admitted five people.” One, an individual over the age of 80, died. None of the five had been vaccinated.

  George County School District administrations are holding their collective breath, hoping for no repeat of last year.

  At a school board meeting last week, a proposed policy basically saying that the district would follow Mississippi Department of Health guidelines for COVID-19 response was given first consideration.

  Superintendent Wade Whitney said that when school opens “. . . the wearing of masks in our schools for students, staff and visitors will be optional. Additional school district COVID protocols will be forthcoming.”

  Whitney told the school board the school’s COVID response may change as conditions change.

  Earlier in the summer, the numbers of new cases of COVID-19 infections had fallen to around 200 per day in Mississippi. Hospitalizations statewide were hovering in the 100 to 125 range and the daily death total had fallen to almost none during June and early July.

  That has suddenly changed. Over this past weekend, the three-day period from July 16 – July 18, the Mississippi Department of Health is reporting 2,326 new cases of the disease with three new deaths. Hospitalizations have jumped from 113 on July 1, to 349 on Sunday, July 18.

  Nationally, the number of new cases reported in the U.S. jumped up to 12,083 for Monday, July 19, according to the John Hopkins Hospital Resource Center.

  About 49 percent of the U.S. population has been vaccinated against the disease.

  George County has experienced 2,577 cases of the disease with 51 deaths since the pandemic began in March 2020.

  About 6,500 people in George County or 26 percent of the total population have had at least one dose of the vaccine and nearly 5,900 people or 24 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated.

  Havard said the hospital is vaccinating people at no charge. All one must do is call and find out which day or days of the week vaccinations are being administered. Vaccinations are then conducted on a walk-in basis. “It only takes a few minutes,” he said.

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