By Associated Press - Wednesday, December 23, 2020

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The total number of coronavirus cases in Mississippi surpassed 200,000 Wednesday, two days before the Christmas holiday when health officials said they expect a spike due to social gatherings.

During a virtual briefing with the news media Tuesday, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, Mississippi’s state health officer, pleaded with residents to adhere to state guidelines around masks and social distancing on Christmas. The safest way to celebrate the holiday is to confine gatherings to nuclear family only, Dobbs said.

“Be aware of the superspreader at your dinner table,” he said. “Please know how vulnerable we can be when we mix people who are younger and older.”



One holiday-related event in the state has already caused an outbreak, according to local news reports.

The Sun Herald reports that at least 10 people on the Mississippi coast have tested positive after a week of events tied to the Biloxi Yacht Club.

The club held the Commodore’s Ball, an evening of dinner and dancing in cocktail attire, inside the yacht club Dec. 12. Organizers say mask-wearing and social distancing was enforced. However, now-deleted social media posts showed attendees pictured without masks dancing shoulder to shoulder, according to The Herald.

The next day, families were invited to the club to visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus. The marina committee met in-person on Tuesday afternoon, followed by a board meeting on Wednesday.

Jay Lee, the club’s incoming leader, told the Sun Herald that most of the people who tested positive were at the marina committee meeting. Several people who had been at the ball attended the marina committee meeting at the club, but not everyone who tested positive attended the ball, Lee said.

The Biloxi Yacht Club is still planning to hold a dinner on New Year’s Eve, Lee said. He said club’s officers will meet after Christmas to make a final decision about the event.

The Ocean Springs Yacht Club has postponed their annual Commodore’s Ball, typically held on New Year’s Eve, because of the pandemic.

The state Health Department reported Wednesday that Mississippi had 2,634 new confirmed cases of the highly contagious virus as of Tuesday evening. The department also reported 43 new deaths Wednesday, with 37 of them happening between Oct. 30 and Tuesday. The state has reported 200,325 cases of the virus and 4,533 deaths from it since the start of the pandemic.

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Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

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