Covid-19 Has Shown How Little Mississippi Does for Children

Covid-19 has shined a light on many opportunities and obstacles for individuals and the government both here at home and abroad. Here in the South, one of the biggest obstacles to slowing the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic is resistance to mask mandates and other preventive measures. The resistance has continued to grow even as cases continue to increase. The CDC reports Mississippi has the lowest number of people vaccinated in the country, with just 34 percent of residents fully vaccinated. With statistics like this, we give our children little to no defense against a virus we can—and should— be protecting our future generation from. 

In Mississippi, it is normal to see people not wearing masks even as Covid-19 cases increase. It is still even more common to see children without masks. Mississippi is also one of the worst states in regards to child mortality and the pandemic has amplified the conditions that lead to this statistic. The Save the Children organization states that children in Mississippi die before their first birthday at a rate of 8.5 per 1,000 children compared to the nation’s average of 5.6.

The reports that detail the number of  vaccines being rejected or returned and the number of Mississippi youth being hit hard by Covid-19 is disheartening. Many news reports are covering the stories of seven children battling Covid-19 in ICUs in Mississippi. CBS News reports some of the children who are now fighting for their lives  had no underlying health conditions prior to their hospitalization. These children and many others are suffering likely because of the hesitancy to trust basic health and safety protocols recommended by healthcare experts. Dr. Leah Smith stated that the recent spike in children heading to the ICU should serve as a wake-up call for anyone who doubts the virus can affect children.

We should not need a wake-up call when we have a preventive, harmless, and effective way to combat the virus.It is critical that people wear a mask and that mask mandates are implemented before children go back to school. How can we expect children to avoid getting Covid-19 without masks, in a state that is barely a third of the way vaccinated, and with a state legislature that ignores that they have one of the highest child mortality rates? 

While we prepare to enter another school year during a pandemic, we can not sit and ignore every time a child gets admitted to a hospital for Covid-19. There needs to be something done to prevent the inevitable rise of cases to come with the Delta variant and the need for vaccine boosters. Whether the rise is created by breakthrough cases in vaccinated individuals or a lack of proper safety precautions, many children will show up to school completely defenseless who would be better protected by wearing a mask.

Mississippians should use the “southern hospitality” we are known for when it comes to looking out for the next  generation. We are already among the top states with high rates of poverty, sexually transmitted diseases, teenage pregnancy, and poor education. Now is the time for action, and we can start now with protecting our children from Covid-19. Here are some things we can do:

  • Wear your masks and social distance. We still have not expanded medicaid, so if entire households get Covid-19, local Mississippians could be at risk of low survival due to their inability to afford prescriptions or insurance. 
  • Get fully vaccinated and protect your household as we head back to school. 
  • Educate yourself. Unvaccinated people are 98% more likely to die from Covid-19. 
  • Citizens should speak to the local legislature in support of  mask mandates. 
  • Post information from authoritative sources like a health or education organization on social media to spread awareness about the Covid-19 pandemic 
  • Find resources available to you like health insurance plans, rental assistance, food pantries, WIC, etc. to keep yourself and your family protected.