A Mississippi health official is blaming maskless white people for the spike in coronavirus cases. Thomas Dobbs made his comments in a press conference earlier this month, highlighting the concerning trend of the pandemic in recent weeks and the troubling outlook for the near future. 

"I think big parts of the white community, especially in areas that maybe weren’t as hard-affected, have not been as compliant or engaged actively with social distancing and masking," Dobbs said. "And I think that does make a difference.”

According to CNN,  Black Mississippians accounted for about 60% of the state's cases and deaths early on during the pandemic. But the shift is now changing, with whites in Mississippi accounting for a greater COVID-19 death toll and a large number of cases. 

“We’ve seen a pretty remarkable shift because early on, African Americans accounted for basically two-thirds, or 60% or more, of cases and deaths,” Dobbs told CNN. “Then over the summer, and especially going into the fall, we’ve seen that shift basically upside down. Sixty-percent of new cases are caucasians and the deaths are nearing that also.”

The state health officer said the Black community has shown a lot more compliance with masking in public and social distancing.

"As far as the case trends, we have had really pretty good uptake by a lot of folks in the Black community with masking and social distancing," Dobbs said. "We've worked very aggressively to make sure that the Black community understands where the risks are and what can be done to prevent that."

White, maskless people are causing an uptick in Mississippi’s Covid-19 cases, Dr. Thomas Dobbs says.
“It may well be that we found a pretty receptive audience in the African American community… We’re not having the same success… with other segments of the population” pic.twitter.com/EfrDZOTh74

— CNN Newsroom (@CNNnewsroom) October 22, 2020

Girmay Berhie, Dean of Jackson State University's College of Health Sciences and School of Public Health, said the mixed message coming from the White House is responsible for making people negligent.

"When I hear Dr. [Anthony] Fauci saying A, and other people hear the President saying B, those are not good. We have to be giving the same message," Berhie told CNN. "It does not matter if I am conservative or liberal, short, tall, white, brown or red. Health is health. We should follow science and enable data. The message should be the same."

According to WDAM7, Mississippi reported 1,212 new COVID-19 cases and 17 additional deaths on Friday, bringing the state’s totals to 115,088 cases and 3,255 deaths. Despite the recent shift in trends, Black people still remain at a high risk of facing COVID-19 complications in Mississippi. The state's decision to opt out of Medicaid and hastily reopen businesses, in addition to the racial disparities Black communities constantly face, has exasperated the risk of the pandemic, Essence reported

Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson, Executive Director of the Highlander Research & Education Center, said the vulnerable populations are neglected by states who chose profit and partisan politics over the health and well-being of communities.

In an article for Essence, Henderson said the communities which are disproportionately impacted by poverty, white supremacist violence and health disparities, are "seeing less access to emergency care, while the few facilities that remain are becoming the primary source of care.”

“We’re seeing health care providers leave communities because of the closure of rural hospitals, gaps in specialty care expanding, job loss, and so much more, as the need for services increases beyond our ability to provide them,” Henderson wrote.