Pandemic Timeline: COVID-19 in Mississippi

By Nick Judin and Ashton Pittman

The COVID-19 pandemic upended our lives and presented new challenges to leaders around the world in 2020. Using this timeline tool, you can explore how the worst public-health crisis in a century unfolded in Mississippi, examine how state, local and public-health leaders responded, and retrace the spread of the novel coronavirus alongside the various policies they enacted.

Note: The “Deaths” figure listed in the circular points starting on March 11, 2020, refers to the total number of publicly reported deaths in Mississippi at that time. Some COVID-19 deaths were reported or confirmed days, weeks or even months after they occurred.

Dec. 31, 2019
Pneumonia Cluster in China
The Chinese government confirms that it has treated a cluster of pneumonia cases with an unknown cause. Within days, researchers will confirm that a newly identified novel coronavirus is the cause.
Dec. 31, 2019
Jan. 21, 2020
U.S. Confirms First COVID-19 Case
The United States confirms the first travel-related case of COVID-19.
Jan. 21, 2020
Jan. 31, 2020
U.S. Public-Health Emergency
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar declares a public-health emergency for COVID-19 that he says began on Jan. 27, 2020.
Jan. 31, 2020
Feb. 29, 2020
First Reported U.S. Death
One day after President Trump claimed that "there have been no deaths in the United States at all" from COVID-19 and that case numbers were dropping, the U.S. confirms that an American patient near Seattle, Wash., has died. Authorities will later confirm two earlier deaths.
Feb. 29, 2020
March 2, 2020
Gov. Reeves Talks Virus With Pence, Azar
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves joins other governors participating in a virtual call with Vice President Mike Pence, U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar and other health officials to discuss the COVID-19 crisis.
March 2, 2020
March 2, 2020
Surgeon General: 'STOP BUYING MASKS!'

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams urges Americans to "STOP BUYING MASKS!" in a tweet, echoing other public-health officials who say masks and other forms of PPE needed in health-care settings should be preserved for health workers.

"They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can't get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk," Adams writes in a tweet. Studies will later disprove part of this claim by demonstrating that face masks are effective at preventing public transmission.

March 2, 2020
March 4, 2020
Reeves Creates Coronavirus Committee
Gov. Tate Reeves signs Executive Order No. 1457, creating the Mississippi Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Planning Steering Committee with Dr. Thomas Dobbs as chair.
March 4, 2020
March 10, 2020
Gov. Reeves on Vacation in Spain
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves is vacationing with his family in Spain—a country that has already confirmed hundreds of COVID-19 cases. He is there for a series of soccer tournaments that his daughter is participating in.
March 10, 2020
March 11, 2020
Mississippi Confirms First Case

The Mississippi State Department of Health confirms the “first presumptive novel coronavirus case” in Forrest County. Gov. Reeves is still in Spain.

Note: "Deaths" listed in the timeline points refer to the confirmed death toll in Mississippi as of the date to which each point corresponds.

Deaths
0
March 11, 2020
March 11, 2020
WHO Declares Global Pandemic
The World Health Organization declares COVID-19 is a worldwide pandemic.
March 11, 2020
March 13, 2020
Trump Declares Emergency
President Trump declares a nationwide state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Deaths
0
March 13, 2020
March 14, 2020
Reeves Returns, Declares Emergency

Gov. Tate Reeves returns from Spain and issues a State of Emergency proclamation that says "the risk of spread of COVID-19 within Mississippi constitutes a public emergency that may result in substantial injury or harm to life, health, and property within Mississippi."

The order directs Mississippi agencies "to identify and provide appropriate personnel for conduct necessary and ongoing incident related assessments” and gives health-care facilities that have invoked emergency operation plans the power to implement "alternative standards of care" as needed. It also orders the state health officer to "inform members of the public on how to protect themselves and actions being taken in response to this outbreak."


Deaths
0
March 14, 2020
March 16, 2020
Public Ordered to Plan for Distance Learning

Gov. Reeves issues Executive Order No. 1458, requiring school districts to "immediately begin working with the Mississippi Department of Education to develop and implement distancing learning or other instructional means to achieve completion of essential grade-level instruction for the 2019-2020 school year."

He also directs various government entities to review and identify essential and non-essential state employees and determine which essential employees could work from home.

Deaths
0
March 16, 2020
March 16, 2020
CDC: 15 Days of Distancing
CDC issues guidelines calling for a 15-day period of social distancing, including avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people; using drive-thru, pickup, or delivery options at bars and restaurants; and avoiding visiting nursing homes.
March 16, 2020
March 17, 2020
Black Leaders Warn of Coming Disparities

Black leaders, including NAACP President Derrick Johnson and then-U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, warn that Black Americans face higher risks during the pandemic and that disparities could soon follow.

"We want to make sure we are not looking at another Katrina," says Harris, the future vice president.

Deaths
0
March 17, 2020
March 17, 2020
Lawmakers Pause Legislative Session
Both the Mississippi House and Senate vote to suspend the legislative session, following advice from State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs. Before suspending, both bodies “passed versions of a bill that would provide relief to local government employees, including educators, but Republicans (block) an effort by Democrats that would have given paid leave to private sector workers who contract COVID-19, are laid off or face reduced hours due to the virus," Clarion-Ledger’s Luke Ramseth and Giacomo Bologna report.
March 17, 2020
March 18, 2020
Jackson Mayor Suspends In-House Dining
Jackson Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba suspends all in-house dining in the capital city and bans gatherings of 10 or more. Clarksdale Mayor Chuck Espy will issue a similar order in his town the next day.
Deaths
0
March 18, 2020
March 18, 2020
Hattiesburg Opens ‘Model’ Clinic
A week after a local resident became the state’s first known COVID-19 patient, Hattiesburg city leaders and local health professionals open a “model” walk-in clinic to treat people with COVID-19-like symptoms. It is the first example of a model that other towns and cities will replicate across the state.
March 18, 2020
March 19, 2020
MSDH Confirms First Death
The Mississippi State Department of Health confirms Mississippi’s first known death as a result of COVID-19. MSDH has now confirmed 50 cases statewide.
Deaths
1
March 19, 2020
March 19, 2020
Public Schools Closed in Mississippi
Gov. Reeves signs Executive Order No. 1460, closing all public schools “effectively immediately” until at least April 17.
March 19, 2020
March 19, 2020
First State Issues ‘Stay-at-Home’ Order
California becomes the first state in the nation to issue a “Stay-at-Home” or “Shelter-in-Place” order. Dozens more will follow within days. On the same day, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency releases “Memorandum on Identification of Essential Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19 Response," which other governors will reference as they craft their own "shelter-in-place" and "stay-at-home" orders.
March 19, 2020
March 20, 2020
MSDH Recommends Restrictions

MSDH recommends that all bars and restaurants suspend dine-in service and switch to carry-out and delivery orders instead in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. MSDH also recommends that residents not attend funerals, weddings, church services or other community or social events with more than 10 people, but exempts gas stations, grocery stores, pharmacies and food marts.

On the same day, Gov. Reeves orders the GOP primary election for the 2nd Congressional District rescheduled from March 31, 2020, to June 23, 2020, with Executive Order No. 1461.

Deaths
1
March 20, 2020
March 20, 2020
‘Stretched Like Never Before’
Going beyond Gov. Reeves’ orders, Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker suspends all indoor dining services in his city. “The potential for this to carry on for two to three months is real,” Barker says. “This alone should be a sobering thought for anyone. We are about to be stretched like never before." Barker is among several local leaders taking similar steps.
March 20, 2020
Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton - Mississippi Free Press
March 21, 2020
Mayors Complain About ‘Patchwork’ Approach

Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton explains that, after waiting on Gov. Reeves to take action, he has taken matters into his own hands in his town, instituting limits on indoor dining and public gatherings. Shelton says Reeves should have already instituted such measures.

“From the beginning of this crisis until today, I have been waiting on the governor of the state of Mississippi to lead,” Shelton says. “He has abdicated that leadership role in a state of emergency, and we will no longer wait in Tupelo.”

Those remarks come a day after Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker suspended all indoor dining services in his city. "The potential for this to carry on for two to three months is real,” Barker says. “This alone should be a sobering thought for anyone. We are about to be stretched like never before."

Deaths
1
March 21, 2020
Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton - Mississippi Free Press
March 23, 2020
Reeves: ‘Mississippi Will Never Be China’

In a Facebook Live address, Gov. Reeves says he does not currently plan to issue a “shelter-in-place” order like the ones governors in other states, including neighboring Louisiana, have now issued. “No one at the State Department of Health has recommended that we have a statewide shelter-in-place order," he says.

Rejecting the idea of a lockdown, Reeves says that “Mississippi will never be China,” referring to China’s strict orders that have cut transmission in that country. Reeves expresses doubt that China has actually arrested the spread of the virus, conflating conflicting reports over the initial spread with widely accepted data on the slow trickle of new cases there.

Deaths
1
March 23, 2020
March 24, 2020
Reeves: ‘Wait-and-See’ on ‘Shelter-in-Place’
As more states issue “stay-at-home” or “shelter-in-place” orders, Gov. Reeves says that he is devoted to taking a “wait-and-see” approach before joining them. "We're not going to make rash decisions just because some states have decided to do things,” he says.
Deaths
1
March 24, 2020
March 24, 2020
Hospital, Nursing Home Visits Suspended

Reeves Issues Executive Order No. 1463, directing all Mississippians to avoid social and non-essential gatherings in groups of more than 10 people until April 17, and orders restaurants, bars, and other dining establishments to suspend dine-in services or allow no more than 10 people inside at a time. He also orders a suspension of all visits to hospitals, nursing homes, and other long-term facilities except in special circumstances such as receiving imminent end-of-life care.

Reeves recommends that businesses implement work-from-home and telework procedures where possible. The governor releases an extensive list of “essential services” that includes things like “religious and faith based facilities,” “firearm and ammunition manufacturers and retailers,” and painting services.

March 24, 2020
March 25, 2020
MSDH Confirms Second, Third Deaths
Six days after the Mississippi State Department of Health confirmed Mississippi’s first COVID-19 death, the department confirms that two more Mississippians have died of COVID-19. From this point onward, the official COVID-19 death toll will continue rising most days.
Deaths
3
March 25, 2020
March 26, 2020
‘Essential’ and ‘Non-Essential’ Defined

Gov. Reeves issues a supplement to Executive Order No. 1463, clarifying that municipalities and counties may exceed his orders so long as they do not interfere with the operation of essential businesses outlined in the order. Reeves’ clarification bears out the earlier concerns of many mayors, including Moss Point Mayor Mario King,that his new executive order revokes their attempts to order local shutdowns to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Deaths
6
March 26, 2020
March 26, 2020
Dr. Dobbs Details Strategy
State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs lays out the COVID-19 strategy for the state of Mississippi, citing South Korea and Singapore as models for their mass testing, contact tracing approach to stifling the virus. Mississippi would later far surpass South Korea in cases and deaths, despite having roughly 1/17 its population.
March 26, 2020
The Grove Nursing Home - Mississippi Free Press
March 29, 2020
MFP Reports First Known Nursing Home Case
The Mississippi Free Press reports on the first known nursing-home case after a Marion County nursing home, The Grove, informs residents’ families that an employee has tested positive for COVID-19 in a letter. Other nursing homes will remain quiet about cases, and the State will not reveal which nursing homes have cases until after a court orders MSDH to do so weeks later.
Deaths
14
March 29, 2020
The Grove Nursing Home - Mississippi Free Press
March 30, 2020
Ex-Gov Mabus Calls for ‘Shelter’ Order

Former Mississippi Gov. Ray Mabus calls on Reeves to “immediately invoke a statewide shelter-in-place order and enforce it.”

“It should have been done a while ago, but even now it will help. To do anything less will almost certainly needlessly condemn people to serious illness and death,” Mabus writes in an op-ed that appears in several Mississippi news publications.

Deaths
16
March 30, 2020
March 31, 2020
Mississippi Cases and Deaths, End of March 2020
CASES
Month: +937
Total: 937

DEATHS
Month: +20
Total: 20
March 31, 2020
April 1, 2020
Confirmed Cases Surpass 1,000

Mississippi reports 1,073 total confirmed cases, breaking the four-digit mark exactly three weeks after the first case was detected in Hattiesburg. Dr. LouAnn Woodward sends Gov. Reeves a letter urging him to issue a shelter-in-place order for the state to stem the spread of COVID-19.

"In my opinion, (a shelter-in-place order) is the only additional thing we can do right now to decrease the force of the impact," writes Woodward.

Deaths
22
April 1, 2020
Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves Online Conference - Mississippi Free Press
April 1, 2020
Reeves Issues ‘Shelter-in-Place’ Order

Gov. Reeves issues a “Shelter-in-Place” order for Mississippi with Executive Order No. 1466, joining 38 other states that have implemented similar “Shelter-in-Place” or “Stay-at-Home” orders since March 19.

The order requires people using outdoor space outside their homes to maintain “a minimum of 6 ft. distance” from other people “at all times” and to “avoid gathering in groups of more than 10 people.” It suspends evictions.

The order mandates the closure of “all places of amusement and recreation, whether indoors or outdoors,” including “amusement parks and rides, museums, playgrounds, children’s party and play facilities, all parks including beaches, lakes and reservoirs (but not including walking trails), movie theaters, bowling alleys, and social clubs.”

Reeves’ order requires “non-essential” businesses or nonprofits to “cease operations” except for “minimum operations,” basing those definitions on those listed in Executive Order No. 1463, but clarifying that the prior order “shall be construed broadly to avoid impact or interruption of the delivery of essential healthcare.”

It specifically notes that fitness and exercise gyms, dance studios, clubs, tattoo parlors, spas, salons, barber shop, “and other similar personal care and grooming facilities” are not considered part of “essential healthcare” services and must cease operations. Mississippians will be able to perform “essential activities” needed to obtain food, services or supplies to maintain household safety, such as grocery shopping, the order says.

Gov. Reeves sets the order to go into effect on April 3, 2020, and to end on April 20, 2020.

April 1, 2020
Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves Online Conference - Mississippi Free Press
April 3, 2020
Shelter-in-Place Begins
Gov. Reeves’ shelter-in-place order takes effect in Mississippi at 5 p.m.
Deaths
29
April 3, 2020
April 3, 2020
CDC Reccommends Masks
Despite earlier guidance saying Americans should not purchase face masks to preserve PPE, the Centers for Disease Control begins recommending that Americans wear cloth or fabric face coverings, including homemade masks.
April 3, 2020
April 3, 2020
Reeves Declares ‘Confederate Heritage Month’
Following in his predecessors’ footsteps, Gov. Reeves declares April “Confederate Heritage Month,” even as reports emerge about COVID-19’s catastrophically disproportionate impact on Black Americans.
April 3, 2020
April 4, 2020
Cases in 78 Counties
Only four of Mississippi’s 82 counties now have no detected cases of the novel coronavirus: Issaquena, Jefferson Davis, Stone and Greene counties.
Deaths
35
April 4, 2020
April 6, 2020
Disparities Acknowledged
MSDH first acknowledges racial disparities in COVID-19, with disproportionate impact on the state’s Black men and women, and responds to direct requests from the Jackson Free Press to release detailed demographic data about COVID-19.
Deaths
51
April 6, 2020
Francisca Morales Diaz - Mississippi Free Press
April 6, 2020
ICE Detainees’ Families Plead for Release
Families of Mississippi ICE detainees plead for their loved ones' release from immigration detention centers that advocates warn are a "breeding ground" for COVID-19.
April 6, 2020
Francisca Morales Diaz - Mississippi Free Press
April 8, 2020
First Race Data Released

As Mississippi surpasses 2,000 confirmed cases, MSDH releases the first detailed demographics on COVID-19 impacts, revealing distinct racial disparities harming Black Mississippians. The agency acknowledges that up to a third of tests failed to check for race, potentially concealing a deeper disparity.

The data show that Black Mississippians, who are 38% of the population, now count for 52% of all COVID-19 cases and 71% of all deaths. White Mississippians, who make up 59% of the population, account for just 35% of cases and 29% of deaths.

Deaths
59
April 8, 2020
April 10, 2020
Liability Protections
Gov. Reeves issues Executive Order No. 1471, providing liability protections to Mississippi health-care facilities and workers until May 15, 2020.
Deaths
82
April 10, 2020
April 13, 2020
First Inmate Death
First Mississippi Department of Corrections inmate dies of complications from COVID-19 in Parchman prison.
Deaths
98
April 13, 2020
Mount Horeb Missionary Baptist Church Pastor Albert Calvin, Jr., Greenville Mayor Errick Simmons and Evans United Methodist Church Pastor Greenville Mayor Anjohnette Gibbs - Mississippi Free Press
April 13, 2020
Clergy Defend Greenville Church Closures
After Greenville Mayor Errick Simmons orders churches to stop holding in-person services to stop the spread of COVID-19, Gov. Reeves claims the closures are unconstitutional. Local clergy tell the Mississippi Free Press that they support the mayor’s decision. Mayor Simmons says he received death threats after Reeves and Fox News hosts accused him of attacking religious liberty.
April 13, 2020
Mount Horeb Missionary Baptist Church Pastor Albert Calvin, Jr., Greenville Mayor Errick Simmons and Evans United Methodist Church Pastor Greenville Mayor Anjohnette Gibbs - Mississippi Free Press
April 15, 2020
Gov. Reeves Announces ‘Restart MS’ Commission
Gov. Reeves says that he has partnered with the business community and will be taking advice on reopening the economy from more than a dozen business leaders in the state whom he has appointed to a “Restart MS” committee. MFP will later report that most were either Reeves campaign donors or tied to organizations that donated large sums to the governors campaigns.
Deaths
122
April 15, 2020
April 17, 2020
Reeves Extends Shelter-in-Place
Gov. Reeves extends shelter-at-home order for seven days past the original April 20 end date until April 27 with Executive Order 1473. He amends the original order to allow people to return to beaches, lakes, and to allow non-essential businesses like florists to re-open for delivery and curbside service.
Deaths
140
April 17, 2020
April 21, 2020
‘A Plateau’
With the state nearing 5,000 confirmed cases, Gov. Reeves refers to the current state of COVID-19 spread as “a peak that is … probably a plateau.” He will continue to use the term “plateau” well into the summer surge.
Deaths
183
April 21, 2020
April 22, 2020
Women Dying More Frequently
State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs sits down for a lengthy interview on the racial disparities of COVID-19, acknowledging for the first time that women are dying more frequently of COVID-19. MSDH will later reveal demographic data showing that black women are most significantly affected.
Deaths
193
April 22, 2020
April 24, 2020
Reeves Issues ‘Safer-at-Home’ Order

Gov. Tate Reeves issues Executive Order No. 1477. The governor's new order says "Mississippians are encouraged to stay at home or in their place of residence when not engaged in Essential Activities or Essential Travel" and requires those engaged in such activities to continue maintaining 6 feet of social distancing and to "avoid gatherings in groups of more than 10 people."

Vulnerable individuals, including the elderly and those with "serious underlying health conditions," are encouraged to continue to shelter in place. The order continues to prohibit "all public and private social and other non-essential gatherings in groups of more than 10 people in a single space at the same time where individuals are in close proximity."

All businesses and nonprofits that were previously closed may reopen with few exceptions. The order requires retail businesses to limit the number of customers in their stores to 50% of store capacity and take measures to ensure compliance with social distancing rules.

The order will take effect on April 27 and end on May 11.

Deaths
209
April 24, 2020
April 27, 2020
‘Shelter’ Ends, ‘Safer’ Begins
As Gov. Reeves’ shelter-in-place order ends, his “Safer at Home” order takes effect at 8 a.m.
Deaths
229
April 27, 2020
April 28, 2020
Reeves Predicts No ‘Significant Spike’
Gov. Tate Reeves again says that COVID-19 spread in Mississippi is at a “plateau” and predicts that the state will not see a “significant spike” upon re-opening.
Deaths
239
April 28, 2020
April 29, 2020
Hattiesburg Gets Mask Mandate
Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker issues the first local mask mandate in Mississippi. It remains in effect as of March 19, 2021. Other cities and counties will do the same in the coming months. Barker tells residents to contact City Hall if they are unable to locate any masks.
Deaths
250
April 29, 2020
April 30, 2020
Mississippi Cases, Deaths and Hospitalizations, End of April 2020
CASES
Month: +5,878 (+527.3%)
Total: 6,815

DEATHS
Month: +241 (+1,105%)
Total: 261

HOSPITALIZED*
As of April 30, 2020: 639

*Including confirmed and suspected cases
April 30, 2020
May 4, 2020
Reeves Allows In-House Dining

Gov. Tate Reeves issues Executive Order No. 1478, amending his Safer-at-Home Order to allow restaurants and bars to resume in-house dining, whether indoor or outdoor. Bars and restaurants must still "take reasonable steps to ensure compliance" with public-health guidelines on social distancing and hygiene protocols as well as conduct daily screenings of all employees and customers upon entry.

Restaurants and bars are limited to no more than 50% capacity and floor plans must "ensure at least six feet of separation between each party/group." The order also allows state parks, local and private parks and outdoor recreational activities to resume with some limitations. The order will take effect on May 7.

Deaths
310
May 4, 2020
May 5, 2020
MFP Reports on ‘Restart’ Appointees’ Donations
The Mississippi Free Press publishes an investigative report detailing how the 16 business leaders Gov. Reeves chose for his “Restart MS” committee and the PACs or organizations they are affiliated with collectively gave the governor $760,000 during his political campaigns since 2008.
Deaths
342
May 5, 2020
May 7, 2020
Restaurants, Bars Reopen
Gov. Reeves’ order allowing bars and restaurants to resume in-house services indoors and outdoors take effect.
Deaths
396
May 7, 2020
May 8, 2020
Reeves Extends ‘Safer’ Order
Gov. Tate Reeves extends the amended version of his Safer-at-Home order to May 25.
Deaths
409
May 8, 2020
May 8, 2020
Reeves: No ‘Excuse’ to Release Prisoners

Even as other states’ governors grant early releases to non-violent inmates to avoid large-scale spread of COVID-19 in crowded prisons, Gov. Reeves refuses to do so. Mississippi has some of the most crowded prisons in the country.

“Unlike many other states, I do not believe we ought to use the excuse of a pandemic to change our sentencing structure in our criminal justice system,” Reeves says.

May 8, 2020
May 12, 2020
Reeves Issues County Specific Orders
Gov. Reeves signs Executive Order No. 1483, singling out seven counties with heightened COVID-19 spread for additional public-health measures: Attala, Leake, Scott, Jasper, Neshoba, Newton and Lauderdale counties.
Deaths
457
May 12, 2020
May 14, 2020
Reeves Ends Eviction Moratorium
Gov. Reeves issues Executive Order No. 1484, ordering state and local governments, including public school districts, to begin returning "employees whose duties were deemed non-essential back to work" while continuing to abide by public-health guidelines. The order allows health-care professionals and facilities to resume non-emergent, elective surgeries and procedures. Gov. Reeves' order also allows evictions to resume starting on June 1, 2020.
Deaths
480
May 14, 2020
May 15, 2020
Restaurant, Tattoo Parlor Restrictions Loosened
Gov. Reeves signs Executive Order No. 1486, furthering loosening restaurant restrictions to allow restaurants that do not serve alcohol to offer in-house dining 24 hours per day. Restaurants that serve alcohol must continue closing by 10 p.m. The order also allows tattoo parlors to reopen under public-health guidelines.
Deaths
493
May 15, 2020
May 15, 2020
Liability Protections Extended
Gov. Reeves signs Executive Order No. 1485, extending liability protections for health-care facilities and workers until May 31.
May 15, 2020
May 19, 2020
‘Safe Worship’ Guidelines
Gov. Reeves publishes his "Safe Worship Guidelines For In-Person Worship Services," offering recommendations for churches that he says will make worship safe. The suggestions include requiring social distancing, sanitation, replacing choirs with soloists and small ensembles, offering face coverings for worshippers and screening temperatures. Soon after, many churches that had switched to holding services virtually will once more begin holding in-person services.
Deaths
554
May 19, 2020
May 22, 2020
Order Allows School to Resume Some Athletics
Gov. Reeves allows schools to reopen weight rooms, training facilities and resume outdoor practices. Executive Order No. 1487 also allows outdoor amusement and recreation parks to reopen. The order takes effect starting on May 25, 2020.
Deaths
596
May 22, 2020
May 23, 2020
Reeves Extends ‘Safer’ Again
Gov. Reeves issues Executive Order No. 1488, extending his amended ‘Safer-at-Home’ orders until June 1. He also adds Holmes County to the list of seven other counties with special orders that he first designated in Executive Order No. 1483.
Deaths
616
May 23, 2020
May 27, 2020
Reeves Claims Success, ‘Prolonged Plateau’

At a press conference, Gov. Reeves claims Mississippi has been successful compared to states where the pandemic hit earlier and with more deadly force. He claims that Mississippi had a higher number of cases per million in April than some states because “we were testing more.”

“We learned a lot from this first wave. The one thing that we learned is, unlike the state of New York and the state of New Jersey, Mississippi never had a huge peak. But because we never had a huge peak, we had a prolonged plateau,” the governor says.

Reeves also announces theaters, libraries, museums and sports complexes to reopen starting on June 1 with social distancing and public-health restrictions in place.

Deaths
670
May 27, 2020
May 29, 2020
Protections Extended
Gov. Reeves issues Executive Order No. 1494, extending liability protections for health-care workers and facilities until June 15, 2020.
Deaths
710
May 29, 2020
May 31, 2020
Mississippi Cases, Deaths and Hospitalizations, End of May 2020
CASES
Month: +8,686 (+47.8%)
Total: 15,501

DEATHS
Month: +473 (+96.3%)
Total: 734

HOSPITALIZED*
As of May 31, 2020: 570 (-10.8%)

*Including confirmed and suspected cases
May 31, 2020
June 1, 2020
‘Safe Return’ Begins
Gov. Tate Reeves ends the last vestiges of the state’s closures and lockdowns, leaving restrictions on gathering sizes and mandating hygiene protocols.
Deaths
739
June 1, 2020
June 4, 2020
MSDH Releases Long Term Care Facility Data
After weeks of urging from media around the state and a lawsuit from the Pine Belt News, the Mississippi State Department of Health releases detailed information on outbreaks in the state’s long-term care facilities, after previously arguing that identifying LTCs with COVID-19 outbreaks would be a potential HIPAA violation.
Deaths
794
June 4, 2020
June 6, 2020
Black Lives Matter March
Thousands of anti-policy brutality Black Lives Matter protesters gather in Jackson for the capital city's largest march since the civil rights era, most of them wearing masks. Despite concerns, public-health officials will later fail to identify cases emanating from the Jackson march or others held across Mississippi in the late spring and summer.
Deaths
803
June 6, 2020
June 8, 2020
Summer Surge Taking Shape
Rising case numbers hint at the coming summer surge, as the state reports 498 new cases a day after reporting more than 500 cases in a single day for the first time—a record the state will repeatedly break in the weeks ahead.
Deaths
837
June 8, 2020
June 10, 2020
State, Local Workers Ordered Back
Gov. Reeves issues Executive Order No. 1495, requiring appointing authorities for agencies, boards, commissions and other state entities to "ensure that all offices have resumed normal business operations" no later than July 1, 2020. The same applies to the governing authorities of municipalities and local school boards or public school districts.
Deaths
868
June 10, 2020
June 10, 2020
Dining, Gym Restrictions Loosened
Gov. Reeves also issues Executive Order No. 1496, extending the Safe Return order until June 29, but allowing restaurants to remain open later with up to 50% of their maximum capacity. Fitness centers and gyms may also allow up to 50% of their maximum capacity. The order takes effect starting June 15, 2020.
June 10, 2020
June 12, 2020
Protections Extended
Gov. Reeves issues Executive Order No. 1497, extending liability protections for health-care workers and facilities until July 1, 2020.
Deaths
881
June 12, 2020
June 19, 2020
Mississippi Youth Blamed For Increased Transmission
State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs highlights the growing danger to the state’s health-care system, laying the blame partially at the feet of younger Mississippians. Highlighted for specific refusal to follow pandemic orders are University of Mississippi fraternities.
Deaths
938
June 19, 2020
June 23, 2020
Dr. Dobbs Predicts ‘Absolute Disaster’

As the growing summer surge reaches crisis level, with the highest single day report of infections thus far—611, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs tells the Jackson Free Press that the overwhelming of the state’s hospital system is inevitable. This would be the first time that any public-health official in Mississippi acknowledged the certainty of the crisis care that would shortly follow, and return in the winter.

“Prepare for not being able to get into the hospital if you have a car wreck, (to) have a heart attack and there not be a ventilator to put you on,” Dobbs warns.

Deaths
989
June 23, 2020
June 24, 2020
MSDH Reports 1,000th Death
As the summer surge begins, MSDH records the thousandth death in the pandemic. Excess death numbers released later in the pandemic reveal that actual COVID-19 deaths consistently outpace recorded totals.
Deaths
1,011
June 24, 2020
June 25, 2020
1,092 New Cases Marks New Record
The Mississippi State Department of Health announces 1,092 new cases of COVID-19, the first four-figure increase in new cases, and another sign that the reopening of the state triggered a new phase of viral spread in spite of the warm summer weather.
Deaths
1,016
June 25, 2020
June 26, 2020
Dobbs: Hospitals Will Be Overwhelmed
Dr. Dobbs revises his earlier warning, suggesting that “widespread abandonment of (social distancing) guidelines” in June has driven transmission to the point that the hospital system will be facing crisis standards of care in a matter of weeks.
Deaths
1,022
June 26, 2020
June 26, 2020
Reeves Allows Concession Stands
Gov. Reeves issues Executive Order No. 1500, extending the Safe Return order until July 6, 2020, but allowing concession stands to open at outdoor sports complexes and allowing public pools to remain open for 24 hours per day.
June 26, 2020
June 30, 2020
More Cities Mandate Masks
More cities, including Jackson and Tupelo, begin issuing mask orders in the place of statewide guidance on mask wearing as the summer peak accelerates. On the same day, Gov. Reeves extends liability protections for hospitals and health-care professionals until July 31 with Executive Order No. 1503.
Deaths
1,073
June 30, 2020
June 30, 2020
Mississippi Cases, Deaths and Hospitalizations, End of June 2020
CASES
Month: +11,746 (+35.2%)
Total: 27,247

DEATHS
Month: +339 (-28.3%)
Total: 1,073

HOSPITALIZED*
As of June 31, 2020: 779 (+36.7%)

*Including confirmed and suspected cases
June 30, 2020
July 2, 2020
Reeves Extends ‘Safe Return’ Order
Gov. Reeves extends his “Safe Return” order until July 20, 2020, with Executive Order No. 1505.
Deaths
1,092
July 2, 2020
A white man wears a mask with the words: "This was preventable"
July 9, 2020
Calls for Mask Mandate Grow as Hospitals Struggle

Dr. Dobbs warns that five of the largest hospitals in the state of Mississippi were operating with zero open ICU beds, with eight more operating below 10% capacity, reflecting the massive strain of the sudden summer peak on the state’s hospital system.

"Mississippi hospitals cannot take care of Mississippi patients,” Dr. Dobbs says.

University of Mississippi Medical Center Vice Chancellor Dr. LouAnn Woodward says that the surge happened because the state went “from ‘shelter-in-place’ to wide open.” If a mask mandate “is what it takes for the people of this state to realize we are serious and this is a major safety issue, then I support a mandate,” she says.

Mississippi House Rep. Jeramey Anderson of Moss Point also sends Gov. Reeves letter calling on him to issue a statewide mask mandate. “I promise to fully support you in such an effort. … Please require that masks be worn and double down on social distancing,” Anderson writes.

Deaths
1,204
July 9, 2020
A white man wears a mask with the words: "This was preventable"
July 10, 2020
Reeves Orders Masks in 13 Counties
Gov. Reeves issues county-specific mask mandates for Claiborne, DeSoto, Grenada, Harrison, Hinds, Jackson, Jefferson, Madison, Quitman, Rankin, Sunflower, Washington and Wayne counties with Executive Order No. 1492. The order applies to public spaces, including retail environments, and public or social gatherings.
Deaths
1,215
July 10, 2020
July 13, 2020
Mandates Take Effect, Elective Surgeries End
Gov. Reeves’ county-level mask mandates take effect. Dr. Dobbs orders a one-week suspension on all elective surgeries requiring overnight hospital stays to protect bed capacity.
Deaths
1,250
July 13, 2020
July 16, 2020
Suppressed Report Reveals Mississippi ‘COVID Red Zone’
The Center For Public Integrity obtains suppressed White House Coronavirus Task Force documents revealing many states, including Mississippi, are in critical COVID-19 red zones. Mississippi sees four consecutive days case reports in the four-digits, as the crushing burden on the state’s hospital system grows.
Deaths
1,308
July 16, 2020
July 19, 2020
Reeves Orders Masks in 10 More Counties

Gov. Reeves signs Executive Order No. 1508, extending the county-level mask mandates until Aug. 3, 2020, and adding 10 more counties to the list: Bolivar, Covington, Forrest, Humphreys, Panola, Sharkey, Sunflower, Washington and Wayne. The total number of counties with mask mandates is now 23.

Reeves also issues Executive Order No. 1509, requiring hospitals to reserve 10% of their capacity for COVID-19 patients in order to continue with elective surgeries.

Deaths
1,355
July 19, 2020
July 24, 2020
Unemployment Order
Gov. Reeves issues Executive Order 1510, which significantly expands unemployment benefits and waives many of the barriers to accessing them, in an acknowledgement of the crushing economic damage of the pandemic to Mississippi’s workers. Executive Order 1511, issued on the same day, adds additional restrictions to bar operations.
Deaths
1,463
July 24, 2020
July 24, 2020
Mask Mandates in 5 More Counties
Gov. Reeves adds Calhoun, Holmes, Lamar, Montgomery and Yalobusha counties to the list of those with county-level mask mandates with Executive Order No. 1512. The number of counties with mask mandates is now 28.
July 24, 2020
July 24, 2020
JPS Announces Virtual Fall Semester
Jackson Public Schools becomes one of the first school districts in the state to formally cancel in-person schooling for the fall, shifting all students to virtual learning.
July 24, 2020
July 27, 2020
First Public School Reopens
Children return to school for the fall semester in the Corinth County School District in Alcorn County, which offers parents the choice of either virtual or in-class instruction. USM Professor Dr. Douglas Chambers tells the Mississippi Free Press that the decision is "just begging for trouble," citing a 10.8% increase in cases in the country.
Deaths
1,501
July 27, 2020
July 30, 2020
Reeves Adds Mask Mandates in 8 Counties
Gov. Reeves adds mask mandates in eight more counties: Carroll, Coahoma, Jones, Lee, Leflore, Lowndes, Noxubee and Pontotoc. He also extends the duration of the mask mandates until Aug. 17, 2020, for all 36 counties. Reeves also extends his “Safe Return” order until Aug. 17, 2020, with Executive Order No. 1514.
Deaths
1,611
July 30, 2020
July 31, 2020
New Daily Record: 1,775 Cases
1,775 new cases of COVID-19 marks a new peak in the bloated summer surge, a prologue to difficult decisions about the coming school semester.
Deaths
1,611
July 31, 2020
July 31, 2020
First School Cases Reported
The Corinth County School District reports the first known COVID-19 cases in a public school just four days after reopening, quarantining at least a dozen individuals who may have been exposed. Within days, the number of quarantines in the district will exceed 100.
Deaths
1,663
July 31, 2020
July 31, 2020
Mississippi Cases, Deaths and Hospitalizations, End of July 2020
CASES
Month: +31,500 (+168.2%)
Total: 58,747

DEATHS
Month: +590 (+74%)
Total: 1,663

HOSPITALIZED*
As of July 31, 2020: 1,229 (+57.8%)

*Including confirmed and suspected cases
July 31, 2020
Aug. 3, 2020
Dobbs, Woodward Call for School Delay
UMMC Vice Chancellor LouAnn Woodward calls for a delay to the school year, amid concerns a return to in-person classes could compound the mass transmission of COVID-19. During a press conference, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs also says the state should delay school reopenings.
Deaths
1,711
Aug. 3, 2020
Aug. 4, 2020
Statewide Mask Mandate

Gov. Reeves issues Executive Order 1516, which establishes a statewide mask mandate for all Mississippians, including for children at K-12 schools.

“I want to see college football. The best way for that to occur is for us all to realize that wearing a mask, as irritating as that can be, and I promise I hate it more than anyone watching today, is critical,” Reeves says.

Reeves sets the order to take effect on Aug. 5 and originally sets it to end on Aug. 17. But the mandate will last until Oct. 1, helping to drive down case transmission as school opens up.

Deaths
1,753
Aug. 4, 2020
Aug. 4, 2020
Governor Delays School For Handful
Gov. Tate Reeves settles on a piecemeal approach to school openings, delaying the start date for a handful of counties to Aug. 17, while allowing the majority to open on schedule. The state’s school districts otherwise determine their own reopening plans—whether virtual, hybrid or traditional.
Aug. 4, 2020
Aug. 5, 2020
Mask Mandate Takes Effect
Gov. Reeves’ statewide mask mandate takes effect.
Deaths
1,804
Aug. 5, 2020
Aug. 6, 2020
MSDH Alters Outbreak Criteria
MSDH alters criteria for long-term care facility outbreaks, now exempting cases of infections in singular employees from the list of facilities experiencing ongoing outbreaks. The summer peak sees near-parity between deaths in LTCs and deaths in the general population, after the initial spike mostly affected LTC residents.
Deaths
1,825
Aug. 6, 2020
Aug. 13, 2020
Mississippi Surpasses 2,000 Deaths
With the new MSDH death figures, the state surpasses 2,000 deaths less than two months after breaking the 1,000-deaths milestone.
Deaths
2,011
Aug. 13, 2020
Aug. 14, 2020
Reeves Extends Statewide Mandate
Gov. Reeves signs Executive Order No. 1518, extending the statewide mask mandate until Aug. 31, 2020.
Deaths
2,043
Aug. 14, 2020
Aug. 21, 2020
Governor Limits Athletic Event Capacity
Gov. Reeves issues Executive Order No. 1519, limiting attendance at scholastic athletic events to 25% of their normal capacity.
Deaths
2,214
Aug. 21, 2020
Aug. 22, 2020
Governor Attends Maskless Rally With Hundreds
Gov. Tate Reeves travels to North Carolina to campaign for a Republican candidate for governor there. The governor does not wear a mask as he joins hundreds of maskless rally goers. The move draws criticisms back home where people point out that his actions contradict his mask orders.
Deaths
2,237
Aug. 22, 2020
Aug. 25, 2020
Dr. Dobbs Warns Against House Parties
Dr. Dobbs warns that parents are allowing students to gather for small events and parties as schools open across the state, threatening the recovery from the summer peak.
Deaths
2,315
Aug. 25, 2020
Aug. 26, 2020
Reeves Maskless at RNC
Gov. Reeves draws criticism after he is filmed maskless in the middle of a tightly packed crowd on the White House lawn as he attends the Republican National Convention.
Deaths
2,373
Aug. 26, 2020
Aug. 31, 2020
Reeves Extends Mask Mandate
Gov. Reeves once again extends the statewide mask mandate and “Safe Return” order, this time to Sept. 14, 2020, with Executive Order No. 1520. The order also allows attendance at K-12 athletic events so long as no more than 25% of maximum seating capacity is used.
Deaths
2,473
Aug. 31, 2020
Aug. 31, 2020
Mississippi Cases, Deaths and Hospitalizations, End of August 2020
CASES
Month: +24,203 (-23.2%)
Total: 82,950

DEATHS
Month: +810 (+37.3%)
Total: 2,473

HOSPITALIZED*
As of Aug. 31, 2020: 802 (-34.7%)

*Including confirmed and suspected cases
Aug. 31, 2020
Sept. 2, 2020
First Mississippi Child Dies of COVID-19
MSDH confirms that a child between the ages of 1 and 5 who was otherwise “healthy” has died of complications caused by COVID-19.
Deaths
2,526
Sept. 2, 2020
Sept. 2, 2020
Gov. Reeves Repeats Racist ‘China Virus’ Theory

Gov. Reeves repeats a debunked conspiracy theory that says the coronavirus originated in a lab in Wuhan, China. “Had this virus not escaped, however it occurred, from the lab in China, I don’t know that we’d be having the kind of conversations that we’re having all day, every day. And that’s a fact,” Reeves says.

Reeves’ comment refers to conspiracy theories claiming that the novel coronavirus originated in and may have been engineered in a Chinese lab. Though the virus originated in China, research has proven that the virus was not man-made. On April 30, the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence denied the theory.

Read MFP’s Story
Sept. 2, 2020
Sept. 8, 2020
State: No Absentee Voting For Those With ‘Higher Risk’
Mississippi voters with pre-existing conditions who have “a higher risk of severe illness or death” if they contract COVID-19 while voting in person should not be allowed to vote absentee, the State’s attorney general and secretary of state tell a court.
Deaths
2,585
Sept. 8, 2020
Sept. 10, 2020
Dobbs: COVID-19 Deaths Likely Undercounted
Mississippi is “almost certainly undercounting” the number of residents who have died from the novel coronavirus since March, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs says in a press conference. MSDH has been “conservative” in its counting procedures, he says, adding that “excess deaths” for the year exceed the official COVID-19 death toll.
Deaths
2,656
Sept. 10, 2020
Sept. 13, 2020
Final Statewide Mask Mandate Extension
Gov. Reeves issues Executive Order No. 1522, extending the statewide mask mandate for the final time, until Sept. 30, 2020. The order also extends the “Safe Return” order.
Deaths
2,697
Sept. 13, 2020
Sept. 15, 2020
Aerosol Transmission Warnings
Public-health officials share a growing consensus that some form of aerosol transmission is responsible for part of COVID-19 spread, highlighting the importance of ventilation in indoor settings.
Deaths
2,734
Sept. 15, 2020
Sept. 28, 2020
Reeves Visits White House Maskless
Gov. Reeves travels to Washington, D.C., where he is photographed inside the White House meeting with Vice President Mike Pence and Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force Dr. Deborah Birx. None of the three is wearing a mask. The visit comes days before President Trump tests positive for COVID-19.
Deaths
2,921
Sept. 28, 2020
Sept. 30, 2020
Reeves Ends Statewide Mask Mandate

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves ends the mask mandate with Executive Order No. 1525, saying at a press conference that “we should not use the hand of government more than it is justified.”

“We need to trust the people of this country to look after themselves and make wise decisions. Personal responsibility is what this country was founded on. It is what makes this country unique,” Reeves says. He also says that he can respond quickly if the state experiences a significant rise in COVID-19 numbers.

Without sharing his opinion on Reeves’ decision, which comes just over a month before Election Day, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs warns that Mississippi is “still vulnerable to a rebound, and we are still vulnerable to a surge.”

Deaths
2,969
Sept. 30, 2020
September 30, 2020
Mississippi Cases, Deaths and Hospitalizations, End of September 2020
CASES
Month: +15,240 (-37%)
Total: 98,190

DEATHS
Month: +496 (-38.8%)
Total: 2,969

HOSPITALIZED*
As of Sept. 30, 2020: 556 (-30.7%)

*Including confirmed and suspected cases
September 30, 2020
Oct. 2, 2020
Trumps Test Positive for COVID-19
Four days after Gov. Reeves’ maskless White House visit, President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump test positive for COVID-19. The president will later be hospitalized for several days.
Deaths
2,999
Oct. 2, 2020
Oct. 3, 2020
Hospitalizations Fall to Post-Summer Low

The number of Mississippi patients hospitalized for COVID-19 falls to a post-summer surge low of 393, a dramatic decline from the nearly 1,000 cases the state recorded in early August. Public-health officials credit the mask mandate with the dramatic decline.

On the same day, MSDH reports the state’s 3,000th COVID-19 death less than two months after reporting the 2,000th.

Deaths
3,011
Oct. 3, 2020
Oct. 5, 2020
Dobbs: ‘Mask Use Dropping Off Rapidly’

Despite Gov. Reeves’ Sept. 30 prediction that Mississippians would continue to wear masks after the mandate expired, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs expresses concern that Mississippians are quickly ditching them.

“Please mask up. Discouraging to see mask use dropping off so rapidly after mandate lifted,” Dr. Thomas Dobbs tweets.

Deaths
3,013
Oct. 5, 2020
Oct. 12, 2020
COVID-19 Hospitalizations Rising Again

After declining for two months following Gov. Reeves’ statewide mask mandate, hospitalizations for COVID-19 are rising once more 12 days after the governor ended the statewide order. Since the Oct. 3 low of 393 hospitalizations, the number of patients has jumped to 491. Cases in nursing homes also begin rising again.

“Our equilibrium is unravelling. We know what it takes if we will just do it,” Gov. Reeves says.

Deaths
3,101
Oct. 12, 2020
Oct. 14, 2020
White Mississippians Now ‘Driving’ COVID-19
White Mississippians surpass Black Mississippians in total COVID-19 cases and deaths—a stunning reversal after data in the spring showed that Black Mississippians made up over 50% of all cases and over 70% of all deaths despite accounting for just 38% of the overall population.
Deaths
3,140
Oct. 14, 2020
Oct. 16, 2020
Dobbs: White Mississippians ‘Not As Compliant’
Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs explains to the Mississippi Free Press why he thinks the early COVID-19 racial disparities that affected Black Mississippians reversed. “We have had pretty good uptake by a lot of folks in the Black community with masking and social distancing,” Dobbs says. “We’ve worked to make sure the Black community understands where the risks are. Big parts of the white community, especially in areas that are not heavily affected, have not been as compliant and engaged in masking and social distancing, so I think that makes a big difference.”
Deaths
3,160
Oct. 16, 2020
Oct. 19, 2020
Mask Mandates Back in 9 Counties
Citing rising case numbers, Gov. Tate Reeves issues Executive Order No. 1527, reinstating mask mandates for nine counties: Chickasaw, Claiborne, Forrest, Itawamba, Jackson, Lamar, Lee and Neshoba. The governor sets the mandates to take effect on Oct. 21 and to end on Nov. 11 unless amended.
Deaths
3,171
Oct. 19, 2020
Oct. 26, 2020
Mask Mandates for 7 More Counties
Gov. Reeves adds Benton, Carroll, Harrison, Jones, Leake, Madison and Marshall counties to the list of those with mask mandates, bringing the total to 16. The governor sets the new mandates to take effect on Oct. 28 and to end on Nov. 11 unless amended.
Deaths
3,263
Oct. 26, 2020
Oct. 31, 2020
Mississippi Cases, Deaths and Hospitalizations, End of October 2020
CASES
Month: +21,970 (+44.2%)
Total: 120,160

DEATHS
Month: +365 (-26.4%)
Total: 3,334

HOSPITALIZED*
As of Oct. 31, 2020: 673 (+21%)

*Including confirmed and suspected cases
Oct. 31, 2020
Long polling lines
Nov. 3, 2020
Record-Breaking Turnout on Election Day
After Mississippi lawmakers decided not to join other states in offering voters safer options for voting, such as mail-in voting or early voting options, Mississippians turn out in record numbers to vote in person on Election Day. In some cases, voters wait for hours to cast a ballot.
Deaths
3,384
Nov. 3, 2020
Long polling lines
Nov. 5, 2020
MSDH Reports Most Cases Since July
The Mississippi State Department of Health reports 1,612 new cases—the most new COVID-19 for any day since July 31 and the third-largest single-day case report on record.
Deaths
3,405
Nov. 5, 2020
Nov. 11, 2020
Reeves Extends Mask Orders for 15 Counties
Gov. Reeves extends his county-specific mask orders to Dec. 11, 2020, and applies them to 15 counties, removing some and adding others. The list now applies to Benton, Carroll, Covington, DeSoto, Forrest, Harrison, Humphreys, Jackson, Lamar, Lauderdale, Leflore, Lee, Marshall, Rankin and Yalobusha counties. The governor also extends Executive Order No. 1525, the Safe Recovery Order, until Dec. 11, 2020.
Deaths
3,497
Nov. 11, 2020
Nov. 12, 2020
Jackson Runs Out of ICU Beds
“Zero ICU beds in Jackson. Very few elsewhere. Please protect yourself and your family,” Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs announces in a grim tweet as the total number of ICU beds available statewide dwindles to 106. The number of hospitalized Mississippians rises to 669. On the same day, Gov. Reeves says he will defy a nationwide mask order if future President Biden orders one.
Deaths
3,514
Nov. 12, 2020
Nov. 12, 2020
Warnings of ‘Small Christmas Funerals’

Public-health leaders warn residents not to have large Thanksgiving gatherings and to keep any holiday dinners to nuclear families only.

“We don’t really want to see Mamaw at Thanksgiving and bury her by Christmas. … “It’s going to happen. You’re going to say hi at Thanksgiving, it’s so nice to see you, and you’re either going to be visiting her by Facetime in the ICU or planning a small funeral by Christmas,” Mississippi State Medical Association President Dr. Mark Horne says.

Nov. 12, 2020
Nov. 12, 2020
DeSoto Sheriff Refuses to Enforce Mask Order

In DeSoto County, where only one ICU bed remains, the local sheriff refuses to enforce Gov. Reeves’ mask mandate for the county. Other local leaders in the county also vow to defy the mandate.

Nov. 12, 2020
Nov. 17, 2020
Mandate List Rises to 22 Counties

Gov. Reeves issues Executive Order No. 1531, adding Hinds, Itawamba, Madison, Montgomery, Pontotoc, Tate and Winston counties to the list of counties with mask orders, bringing the total to 22. He sets the orders to take effect on Nov. 18, 2020 and to end on Dec. 11, 2020 unless amended.

On the same day, a first-grade teacher’s assistant dies of COVID-19 in DeSoto County, where public officials continue to push back against Gov. Reeves’ county-level mask orders.

Deaths
3,581
Nov. 17, 2020
Nov. 21, 2020
Mississippi Breaks Record With 1,972 Cases
Mississippi breaks its July record of 1,775 cases as MSDH reports that the state identified 1,972 new cases in a single day.
Deaths
3,657
Nov. 21, 2020
Nov. 23, 2020
Experts Call for Statewide Mask Mandate

Four of the state’s top health-care professionals send Gov. Reeves a letter calling for a new statewide mask mandate: “Sadly, Mississippi’s healthcare system is again overwhelmed by COVID-19, just as it was this summer. The data shows that the statewide mask mandate you instituted on August 4 worked well, and we are asking you to institute it again,” the letter reads. At a press conference, University of Mississippi Medical Center Vice Chancellor Dr. LouAnn Woodward, one of the signees, says that Gov. Reeves’ “county-by-county approach is not working” and that “we very much believe we should have a statewide mask mandate.”

Deaths
3,676
Nov. 23, 2020
Nov. 24, 2020
Reeves Attacks ‘So-Called Experts’
Defying calls for a new mask mandate, Gov. Reeves lashes out at health experts who have asked him to order a new statewide mask mandate, saying he is “frustrated” over suggestions from “so-called experts.” Instead, he continues his county-by-county approach as cases and hospitalizations soar statewide. “My view is this notion of a mask mandate has really become a buzzword in this fight against COVID,” he says.
Deaths
3,729
Nov. 24, 2020
Nov. 24, 2020
Mandates Now in Half of All Counties
Gov. Reeves issues Executive Order No. 1532, expanding the list of counties with mask mandates to include 19 more counties: Alcorn, Attala, Bolivar, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Jefferson Davis, Jones, Lafayette, Lawrence, Lincoln, Lowndes, Neshoba, Panola, Perry, Stone, Tippah, Tishomingo and Union counties. The order brings the total number of counties with mask mandates to 41—half of the state’s 82 counties.
Nov. 24, 2020
Nov. 30, 2020
Mississippi Breaks Hospitalization Record
MSDH reports 1,008 hospitalizations for confirmed cases of COVID-19—breaking the summer peak for confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations of 989. Dr. Dobbs warns that a “Thanksgiving acceleration” is still to come.
Deaths
3,807
Nov. 30, 2020
Nov. 30, 2020
Mississippi Cases, Deaths and Hospitalizations, End of November 2020
CASES
Month: +33,110 (+50.7%)
Total: 153,270

DEATHS
Month: +473 (+29.6%)
Total: 3,807

HOSPITALIZED*
As of Nov. 30, 2020: 1,115 (+65.7%)

*Including confirmed and suspected cases
Nov. 30, 2020
Dec. 1, 2020
Reeves Denies New Peak as Cases Set Record

Gov. Reeves criticizes then-Jackson Free Press reporter Nick Judin after Judin accurately says that the state is exceeding its summer peak for COVID-19 spread.

“When you say that we are currently exceeding our peak, that’s fundamentally inaccurate. That’s just not true. That’s false, in fact,” the governor says, even as the state is reporting record highs for cases and hospitalizations. (Judin is now an MFP reporter.)

Deaths
3,836
Dec. 1, 2020
Dec. 2, 2020
Mississippi Breaks Record Again
MSDH announces 2,457 new cases of COVID-19, blowing past previous daily records for new cases and far exceeding the earlier summer peak. December brings a firm beginning to the largest surge in the history of the pandemic—one that will not begin to recede until late January.
Deaths
3,851
Dec. 2, 2020
Dec. 7, 2020
Dobbs Predicts Over 1,000 December Deaths
State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs says that, at current rates, another 1,000 Mississippians will die in the month of December alone. In the first nine months of the pandemic, the state reported 343 deaths per month on average.
Deaths
3,961
Dec. 7, 2020
Dec. 8, 2020
Mississippi Surpasses 4,000 Deaths
Just over two months after confirming the 3,000th death, MSDH confirms that more than 4,000 Mississippians have died of COVID-19.
Deaths
4,017
Dec. 8, 2020
Dec. 9, 2020
Mask Mandates for 60 Counties
Gov. Tate Reeves issues a new county-level mask mandate order that includes 60 of Mississippi’s 82 counties with Executive Order No. 1536. He continues to resist health-care professionals’ pleas for a new statewide mask mandate.
Deaths
4,041
Dec. 9, 2020
Mississippi Governor's Mansion decorated for Christmas
Dec. 10, 2020
Governor Holds Party at Mansion
In spite of his belated acknowledgement that Mississippi was experiencing the most dire days of the pandemic so far, Gov. Tate Reeves holds an early Christmas party at his mansion, in which clusters of unmasked guests gather against MSDH urgings.
Deaths
4,083
Dec. 10, 2020
Dec. 12, 2020
Charley Pride Dies of COVID-19
Mississippi-born music trail blazer, Charley Pride, who made history as a Black country artist, dies of COVID-19 a month after making an in-person appearance at the Country Music Awards to receive an award.
Deaths
4,180
Dec. 12, 2020
Dec. 13, 2020
Wiggins Mayor Dies of COVID-19
Wiggins Mayor Joel Miles dies of COVID-19 after a weeks-long battle with the virus. He previously faced opposition in town after ordering residents to wear masks in public. “When this COVID journey began for us, Joel told me that whatever he might face, for us to be as transparent as we can with everybody. … He felt he needed to do everything he could to protect people,” his wife, Mary Miles, writes in a Facebook post. “He faced many people every day that felt it was unnecessary to wear (a mask). As he was trying to protect others, not everyone did their part to protect him.”
Deaths
4,199
Dec. 13, 2020
Dec. 15, 2020
First Mississippi Vaccinations
MSDH leadership and two frontline health-care professionals received the first doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, beginning the long journey towards herd immunity for the Magnolia State.
Deaths
4,252
Dec. 15, 2020
Dec. 22, 2020
79 Deaths Reported in Single Day
Dr. Dobbs and State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers read off non-identifying information about some of the many recent fatalities from COVID-19, stressing how preventable their deaths might be.
Deaths
4,490
Dec. 22, 2020
Dec. 22, 2020
Mask Mandates in 77 of 82 Counties
Gov. Reeves issues Executive Order No. 1539, adding 17 more counties to the list with mask mandates. Of Mississippi’s 82 counties, 77 now have county-specific mask orders due to what Reeves says is “higher risk for transmission of COVID-19.”
Dec. 22, 2020
Dec. 29, 2020
Daily Death Record Broken Again
MSDH reports a record-breaking 85 deaths—the most reported in a single day.
Deaths
4,719
Dec. 29, 2020
Dec. 31, 2020
Mississippi Cases, Deaths and Hospitalizations Reported, End of December 2020
CASES
Month: +62,541 (+88.9%)
Total: 215,811

DEATHS
Month: +980 (+107.2%)
Total: 4,787

HOSPITALIZED*
As of Dec. 31, 2020: 1,463 (+31.2%)

*Including confirmed and suspected cases
Dec. 31, 2020
Jan. 4, 2021
Hospitalizations Reach New Heights
MSDH data reveals that an average of 162 Mississippians are hospitalized for COVID every day in the previous week. The state’s hospital system is firmly entrenched in crisis care, with loosening standards for patient treatment under the overburdened conditions.
Deaths
4,884
Jan. 4, 2021
Jan. 5, 2021
Mississippi Surpasses 5,000 Deaths
Less than a month after MSDH reported the state’s 4,000th COVID-19 death, the department announces that at least 5,000 Mississippians have died of COVID-19.
Deaths
4,975
Jan. 5, 2021
Jan. 15, 2021
Gov. Reeves Extends Most County Mandates
Gov. Reeves issues Executive Order No. 1542, extending the Safe Recovery Order until Feb. 3, 2021, and extending mask mandates for most counties while adding Claiborne and Tunica counties to the list. Gov. Reeves allows mask orders to expire in Adams, Jefferson, Lawrence, Quitman and Wilkinson counties. The orders take effect immediately and last until Feb. 3, 2021, unless amended. There are now mask mandates in 73 counties.
Deaths
5,411
Jan. 15, 2021
Jan. 15, 2021
Racial Disparities in Vaccine Delivery
As MSDH data show that Black Mississippians make up only 15% of vaccine dose recipients so far despite the fact that 38% of the state population is Black, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs says that MSDH is "working hard to address geographic and racial disparities."
Jan. 15, 2021
Jan. 30, 2020
Mississippi Surpasses 6,000 Deaths
Just 25 days after MSDH reported the state’s 5,000th COVID-19 death, the department announces that at least 6,000 Mississippians have died of COVID-19.
Deaths
6,018
Jan. 30, 2020
Jan. 31, 2021
Mississippi Cases, Deaths and Hospitalizations Reported, End of November 2020
CASES
Month: +59,190 (-5.4%)
Total: 275,001

DEATHS
Month: +1,258 (+28.4%)
Total: 6,045

HOSPITALIZED*
As of Jan. 31, 2021: 953 (-34.9%)

*Including confirmed and suspected cases
Jan. 31, 2021
Feb. 3, 2021
Sports Restrictions Loosened
Gov. Reeves issues Executive Order No. 1543, which lets colleges and universities to allow attendance at outdoor sports events with certain social-distancing restrictions and seating limitations. The order also extends the current county mask mandates and other county-specific provisions until March 3, 2021.
Deaths
6,158
Feb. 3, 2021
Feb. 4, 2021
2020 Deaths Undercounted, Exceeded 1918

After examining more than a century of Mississippi health data and MSDH reports, the Mississippi Free Press reports that COVID-19 deaths in 2020 exceeded the number of “Great Influenza” deaths the state recorded in 1918 during the last major pandemic.

The state also recorded more “excess deaths” in 2020 than any other year, which refers to how many more deaths the state recorded from all causes compared to the prior three years (2017-2019). Mississippi recorded 7,314 excess deaths in 2020. The only year that comes close is 1918, when the state recorded 7,312 excess deaths.

The data show that, as Dr. Dobbs suggested in September 2020, Mississippi likely undercounted COVID-19 deaths by thousands. Mississippi’s mortality rate reached 13.4 in 2020—the highest since 1918.

Deaths
6,182
Feb. 4, 2021
Feb. 23, 2021
Election Training Changes
Gov. Reeves issues Executive Order No. 1547, suspending requirements for county election commissioners to attend a training seminar by April 30, 2021. Commissioners must instead attend a training seminar by July 31, 2021.
Deaths
6,577
Feb. 23, 2021
Feb. 28, 2021
Mississippi Cases, Deaths and Hospitalizations Reported, End of February 2021
CASES
Month: +19,794 (-66.6%)
Total: 294,795

DEATHS
Month: +636 (-49.4%)
Total: 6,681

HOSPITALIZED*
As of Feb. 28, 2021: 492 (-48.4%)

*Including confirmed and suspected cases
Feb. 28, 2021
March 2, 2021
Reeves Ends Most COVID-19 Orders

Defying a CDC advisory, Gov. Reeves issues Executive Order No. 1549, repealing all county mask mandates and most COVID-19 restrictions. The order still encourages Mississippians "to follow the CDC's and Mississippi State Department of Health's guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19" and for businesses to "make reasonable, good faith efforts" to comply with CDC and MSDH regulations and guidelines.

Mask mandates will remain in place only in Mississippi's public schools except with some exceptions for "settings when it is not practicable or feasible to wear a face covering." Attendance at indoor arenas remains limited to 50% of seating capacity.

Deaths
6,724
March 2, 2021
President Joe Biden speaking at podium
March 3, 2021
Biden Criticizes ‘Neanderthal Thinking’

President Joe Biden rebukes Govs. Reeves and Abbott for ending COVID restrictions in their states, particularly mask mandates.

"The last thing—the last thing—we need is the Neanderthal thinking that in the meantime, everything's fine, take off your mask. Forget it. It still matters," Biden says. Gov. Reeves and the Mississippi GOP will later mischaracterize his remarks and claim he described Mississippians as “neanderthals” instead of the governor’s “thinking.”

CDC head Dr. Rochelle Walensky also warns on the same day that “now is not the time to release all restrictions,” calling the next two months “pivotal” to bringing the pandemic to an end in the United States. "How this plays out is up to us," she says.

Deaths
6,743
March 3, 2021
March 4, 2021
Reeves Redirects Criticism to Mississippians
In an interview on Fox News, Gov. Reeves reacts to President Biden’s description of decisions to end mask mandates and other restrictions as “neanderthal thinking” by portraying it as a comment directed at Mississippians—rather than one aimed at himself. “Today I feel the same way as I did the day that Hillary Clinton called all of us in middle America ‘deplorables,’” Reeves said. The governor was referring to a comment Secretary Hillary Clinton made in 2016 about people who are “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic (and) Islamophobic,” though Reeves and others have long misrepresented it as a blanket statement about conservative voters.
Deaths
6,764
March 4, 2021
March 11, 2021
One Year Since First Reported Case
MFP Publisher Kimberly Griffin marks one year since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic and MSDH confirmed the first COVID-19 case in Mississippi with a publisher’s note.
Deaths
6,864
March 11, 2021
March 16, 2021
Black Mississippians Now 38% of Weekly Vaccinations
State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs credits the MSDH Health Equity Team, Black churches and Black leaders as Black Mississippians' share of weekly vaccinations reaches 38%, equaling the Black share of the population for the first time.
Deaths
6,929
March 16, 2021
March 22, 2021
Millionth Vaccine
Gov. Reeves announces that Mississippi has surpassed 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered.
Deaths
6,956
March 22, 2021
March 24, 2021
Reeves: ‘Get A Shot and Live Your Life’

In a tweet, Gov. Reeves celebrates Mississippi’s continued decline in hospitalizations and daily cases.

“Dear ‘Neanderthals,’ three weeks ago our open state was attacked by the so-called expert in the White House! But data doesn’t play politics: Average daily cases cut in half. Hospitalizations down 421 to 244. ICU beds down 109 to 67. Get a shot and live your life, Mississippi,” he writes.

Deaths
6,981
March 24, 2021
March 29, 2021
Mississippi Surpasses 7,000 Confirmed Deaths
Just over two months after confirming the 6,000 death, MSDH confirms that more than 7,000 Mississippians have now died of COVID-19.
Deaths
7,001
March 29, 2021
March 29, 2021
Biden: ‘Reinstate the Mask Mandate’
President Biden urges governors to reinstate mask mandates as cases begin to climb in states across the nation. Cases remain stagnant in Mississippi for now. "I'm reiterating my call for every governor, mayor and local leaders to maintain and reinstate the mask mandate. Please, this is not politics. ... Mask up. It's a patriotic duty. It's the only way we ever get back to normal," Biden says.
March 29, 2021
March 30, 2021
'No Thanks, Mr. President'

Gov. Tate Reeves says he is opposed to reinstating mask mandates despite warnings from the Biden administration of a potential new surge, saying there is no need for action because Mississippi is not yet experiencing a surge.

“Let me get this straight—POTUS Biden wants Mississippi to reverse course and reinstate a mask mandate because cases are going up in New York and New Jersey. No thank you, Mr. President,” he tweets.

Deaths
7,013
March 30, 2021