Mississippi health officer criticizes Ole Miss students for partying, ignoring social distancing

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OXFORD, Miss. — Mississippi’s state health officer called out students at the University of Mississippi for not following social distancing guidelines and contributing to the state’s spike in COVID-19 cases.

Oxford still remains in the coronavirus bullseye.

“This reckless social behavior is going to harm the whole state,” State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said.

When Mississippi recorded more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases in one day, health officials painted a dire picture of what ignoring social distancing policies could mean.

“It’s going to harm the businesses in the state, it’s going to harm our economy, and it’s going to cause unnecessary deaths,” Dr. Dobbs said. “We need to start doing those simple things, or we’re going to pay the price.”

Dr. Dobbs expanded Tuesday on NPR about concerns over the growing number of COVID-19 cases involving students at Ole Miss.

“In Oxford, Mississippi, we had a whole bunch of cases come through recently, and from our investigations, we identified that a lot of them were going to social events or fraternity rush parties,” Dr. Dobbs said.

“I personally haven’t heard anything about them,” Ole Miss sophomore Vasilios Tidwell said. “I hear it through the news that they’re happening, but I haven’t seen anything firsthand.”

Tidwell said he just wants to attend school in a safe environment.

“I mean we’re all wanting, like, to be in school and learning the best we can,” he said. “I know our teachers are wanting the same, but we have to make sure we’re not putting anybody’s health at risk.”

Dr. Dobbs also said the state has seen an uptick in the number of people wearing masks, but overall those numbers vary from community to community.

“I think they’re scared to death,” Oxford resident Julian Brewer said. “I’m seeing people, just like, with their windows up, wearing their masks by themselves. I’m like, ‘Is that necessary?’ But it may be. At the same time, we don’t know enough.”

The university sent WREG the following statement about the allegations of large events with students.

“We are aware of a social event that took place in the city. This event took place without our knowledge or approval, and as soon as we heard about that event we gave a clear directive that all social and recruiting events are suspended for the summer in all cities for all fraternities and sororities. Our Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life took swift action to make it clear that all those events are not to be held and should not take place.”

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