When President Trump said during his coronavirus briefing last Monday that things were going to get worse before they got better, he must have been looking right at Louisiana and Mississippi.
The states rank second and third nationally in terms of the number of new virus infections per 100,000 people. As of Thursday, Florida had the highest per capita infection rate of 54 per 100,000. Louisiana was second at 47 people, while Mississippi was third at 41.
To amplify the growing problem, the number of infections in Mississippi during the past week was 29 percent higher than the week before that — the largest increase in the nation. Louisiana’s new cases were up 14 percent, according to information on The Washington Post website.
Locally, a growing number of infections in Walthall County prompted Gov. Tate Reeves to order increased restrictions there in an effort to stop the spread of the virus. Walthall is one of 23 counties under such an order.
If the governor restricts activities, it means smaller gatherings, more masks and greater distance between people at businesses.
One concern would be how commerce would be affected by the rising number of infections. But perhaps the greatest concern is that schools are scheduled to open in a few weeks. The higher numbers could not be coming at a worse time.
The short term looks grim, but there are always some positives to keep in mind. Chief among them is that at some point, the number of infections will start to decline, as they already are in a number of other states. But the rapid rise since the second half of June is exceptionally frustrating.
Another positive is that the public generally has been level headed about this, even though the news has been getting worse.
The greatest fears may have been at the very beginning, when the virus shut down schools and people didn’t know what to expect. Four months of experience has taught many of us that common-sense actions — keeping your distance, washing your hands, staying home more often, even wearing a mask — can make a difference.
Finally, even though Mississippi’s and Louisiana’s case increases are near the top of the national list, the virus death rate has not kept pace — in those two states as well as in the rest of the country.
Very few people in Mississippi under the age of 50 who get the virus have died. There is no guarantee this will continue, but it’s still a good sign. Becoming infected almost always means a two-week quarantine along with other precautions. That’s far more tolerable than being at the brink of death in a hospital.