August 12, 2020 10:44:10 AM
To this point, Mississippi finds itself in the middle of the pack when it comes to COVID-19 cases and death, but appears to be handling the economic impact of the virus better than most.
Since a high unemployment rate of 15.7 percent in April, Mississippians have been going back to work. The last available figures show the state's unemployment rate at 9.7 percent.
July's numbers are expected to improve only slightly, but the state is trending in the right direction.
At this point, the stability in the job market may rely on how well the state does in containing the spread of the virus. In July, the number of cases surged to more than 1,000 per day, but over the past two week, the daily cases have fallen by 30 percent.
We are by no means out of the woods, of course, and with public schools and colleges beginning to open their doors, the potential for a spike in cases is a distinct possibility. The Columbus Municipal School District has reported two cases -- one student, one staff member -- since opening on Aug. 6. Statewide, 27 schools have reported a combined 42 cases, leading to self-isolation of hundreds of staff/students.
If schools are to remain open for in-person classes, strict adherence to COVID-19 guidelines is essential.
Although given less attention, the same is true for employers and employees.
Data shows that 80 percent of those who contract COVID-19 are asymptomatic. That percentage is as much as 90 percent among children.
The good news is that in these cases, COVID-19 is not a serious health threat. The bad news is that four in five people with COVID-19 can be walking around, going to school, going to work and following their normal routines without even knowing they have it and without understanding they may be passing the virus on to others who may be more vulnerable.
By now, we all know the most common symptoms -- fever or chills, cough, shortness of break, fatigue, loss of taste/smell -- and know the policies: seek testing, self-quarantine.
But since anyone can be asymptomatic, guarding against the spread of the virus requires another dimension of caution.
Employers and employees alike should be aware of CDC and state health guidelines and follow recommended changes.
For employees, that means not only following guidelines -- wearing masks, social distancing and frequent hand washing -- but limiting exposure to those outside your immediate family group.
We should avoid close contact -- within 6 feet of another person for more than 5 minutes -- and limit ourselves to small gatherings, fewer than 20 people.
This will reduce our chances of contracting and spreading the virus. If you're one of the 80 percent of the people likely to show no symptoms, that's even more important because of the risk of bringing the virus into the workplace.
The cooperation between employers and employees and the degree of discipline we exhibit, will not only give us a better shot at remaining virus-free, it will also keep us on the job.
We're getting back to work in Mississippi. How cautious we may determine how long we'll continue to stay on the job.
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