In a Friday night interview on The News with Shepard Smith, Jackson, Chokwe Lumumba, Mississippi Mayor said, "There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason for some of the decisions to reverse the statewide mask mandates" as coronavirus hospital stay rates are reaching that highest level in the state in 2.5 months.
"We're not just the capital, we're the healthcare capital here in the state of Mississippi," Lumumba said. "So the decisions that are made at the state level will affect the City of Jackson and ultimately the availability of hospital beds."
There are no more ICU beds in Jackson, the Mississippi Free Press reported. According to the Covid Tracking Project, Mississippi had an average 7.6 days Covid-19 positivity rate of 15.6%. Since the pandemic began, cases and deaths per capita in Mississippi are the sixth highest of any state in the nation. Mississippi governor Tate Reeves (R) let the statewide mask mandate expire on September 30th. Reeves' daughter tested positive for Covid and he and his entire family are currently in quarantine.
Lumumba described his communication with Governor Reeves as "touch and go" and emphasized the need for a unified strategy at state and national level. Jackson remained under a masked mandate despite the governor's decision to let the statewide mandate expire.
"Here in Jackson, we've kept our nationwide mask mandate and we've been relatively successful in this area," said Lumumba. "In October the infection rate was actually down 11.4%, but that seems to be on the up."
Lumumba also admitted that the pandemic further exposed the inequalities in Mississippi, considered the poorest state in the nation. Jackson is one of the largest food deserts in the nation, and access to healthy food has been tightened further by the pandemic. Earlier this year, Lumumba even launched an initiative with Dole Packaged Foods to meet the challenge of bringing nutritious foods to underserved areas in Jackson, which has one of the highest obesity rates in the country. Obesity is one of the biggest possible complications for Covid.
"People who do not have regular access to health care are the most vulnerable because of the underlying health conditions, so it is a ripe thing to take advantage of these conditions here in Mississippi," Lumumba said. "So this could be the epicenter where we should be most concerned if there is no unified strategy and no proactive strategy."