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Mississippi reports COVID-19 variants

Mississippi reported its first case of the South African COVID-19 variant on Friday.

The case was reported in Harrison County and the variant strain, B.1.351, appears more contagious and has some resistance to vaccines, especially the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, said State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs during a press briefing Friday.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine appears less effective at preventing symptomatic illness with this variant, but is still robust at preventing hospitalization and death from this COVID-19 variant, said Dobbs. There is not real world data yet on the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines’ effectiveness with B.1.351, said Dobbs. There have been 142 cases of this particular variant reported in 25 U.S. states.

Mississippi also has 10 reported cases of the UK COVID-19 variant, which appears to be more contagious and deadlier, said Dobbs. It was first identified in the state in mid-February, said State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers. Fortunately vaccines appear to be as effective against that variant, B.1.1.7, said Dobbs.

Those 10 cases were reported in people residing in the counties of Marshall, Lincoln, Jackson, Hinds, Harrison, Forrest, Desoto and Coahoma.

The appearance of the variants are a strong reminder that precautions still need to be taken to prevent COVID-19 transmission, like wearing masks in public, avoiding large indoor gatherings and being vaccinated, said Dobbs.

Everyone 16 and older is eligible to be vaccinated in Mississippi. The Mississippi COVID-19 hotline is 877-978-6453 and appointments can be made online at covidvaccine.umc.edu. As of Monday, 364,308 people in Mississippi are fully vaccinated and 12,454 vaccine doses have been administered in Pearl River County, according to the MSDH COVID-19 Vaccination Reporting.

On Sunday, Mississippi reported 95 new COVID-19 cases and no new deaths. There were 37 active outbreaks in long-term care facilities.

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 302,932 cases and 6,956 deaths in Mississippi. Pearl River County has had 4,332 cases and 133 deaths. New cases are on the decline across the state and in Pearl River County. There were 43 COVID-19 cases via suspected community transmission in Pearl River County the week of March 13.