Mississippians are accustomed to being at the bottom of the barrel in a number of key national statistics. Next to last place in median income (only West Virginia is worse). Mississippi is number 50 out of 50 in average life expectancy, just 74.8 years. And so on.
However, readers may be surprised to learn that, for most of this year and part of 2020, Mississippi, has ranked near the top of the 50 states in one vital category: Mississippi is still fifth in the entire United States in the number of COVID-19 deaths per million residents.
Hard to believe? Believe it.
Mississippi, with a population of under three million, is number five in the U.S. with 2,487 COVID-19 deaths per million residents. The top four are New Jersey, 2,977 deaths per million; New York, 2,776; Massachusetts, 2,610; and Rhode Island, 2,575.
What does Mississippi have in common with the top four, all of which are densely populated states? Not much. Epidemiologists agree that pandemics tend to be worse in densely populated areas. New Jersey has 1,263 people per square mile, Rhode Island has 1,006 per square mile.
Mississippi, on the other hand has less than 64 – sixty four – people per square mile. So how does Mississippi have nearly as many COVID deaths per thousand as Rhode Island, which has about 16 times greater population density?
The answer has many parts, and it’s hard to say which part is the most important.
Most obvious is Mississippi’s abysmally poor public health system. It’s another area where Mississippi ranks near the bottom – 47th out of 50 – in the ranking of it public health efforts.
Many factors could be cited, but the most obvious has been the incredibly foolish refusal by Governors Phil Bryant and Tate Reeves and the state legislature to expand the state’s Medicaid system.
This is not to throw stones at state health officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs. One has to admire the way Dobbs has soldiered on during the COVID-19 pandemic. Underfunded and dealing with inept leadership out of the governor’s office, Dobbs has worked heroically to keep it together. (One has to seriously wonder how many times during the last 16 months Dobbs has wanted to strangle Goobernor Reeves.)
The other major factor that causes Mississippi to rank near the top in the United States in its rate of COVID-19 deaths can be stated in one simple word: Ignorance.
It’s ignorance that was in many ways encouraged by President Trump and his lackey Tater. It’s ignorance generated by bogus news organizations such as Q-Anon. It’s the ignorance of denying that the coronavirus is a serious, deadly disease.
Perhaps you have notice around north Mississippi, people wearing T-Shirts with slogans stenciled on the front: “Unmasked, Unmuzzled, Unvaccinated, Unafraid.” We’ve seen several and you probably have as well.
There’s room on the back of the shirt for another few words: “Trump Forever” might work. Our personal favorite would be “Ignorant and Proud of it!”
How amazing is it that the “Unmasked, Unvaccinated” theme is so popular among people who voted Trump?
Whatever flaws Trump may have had, he must be given credit for one thing: he bullied, prodded, kept a sharp stick in the back of the medical and research community to develop a vaccination in record time.
Yet some of the most rabid Trumpies are wearing those foolish “Unmasked, Unvaccinated…” etc. T-shirts.
According to June 27 figures, only 29.33 percent of Mississippians are vaccinated against COVID-19! That compares to 46.1 percent of the total U.S. population, which is fully vaccinated.
On Monday, June 28th, the CDC and other public health authorities announced that five U.S. states are at greatest risk for outbreaks this year of an even deadlier variant of the coronavirus. The Delta variant, a strain of Covid-19 believed to be more transmissible and dangerous than others, is likely to break out in some U.S. communities within weeks.
Some states are the most vulnerable because of extremely low vaccination rates. You guessed it. Mississippi is one of them.
Mississippi, along with Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Wyoming, because of its low vaccination rates is where the Delta variant is likely to strike hardest.
Mississippi, already number five in the country in COVID-19 deaths per million, has a shot at becoming number one.
Hug the next person you see wearing one of those “Unmasked, Unvaccinated” T-shirts. They could be the upcoming Mississippi heroes, helping our state become, at last, number one in one vital statistical area!
JWSCovid-19 coronavirus, Mississippi government, Mississippi Medicaid, MS Department of Health, MS politics, Northeast Mississippi news, Public Health