Pascagoula, Miss. (Mississippi Press) – Mississippi Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann spent the day in Pascagoula Thursday, meeting with local school superintendents, giving a presentation to other local officials and meeting with Singing River Health System officials about the state’s ongoing battle with COVID-19.

After spending the morning meeting with the local educators at the Pascagoula High School Performing Arts Center, Hosemann attended an invitation-only luncheon sponsored by the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce, with many local officials in attendance.

Afterward, he took to the auditorium stage to speak on a wide range of topics, including the 2020 legislative session and goals for the future.

Of particular note were Tuesday’s vote on the new Mississippi state flag, which was approved by 71.6 percent of voters, and the state’s continuing battle with COVID-19 and the legislature’s efforts to assist businesses impacted by the virus outbreak.

“I thought in my own mind we’d have over 60 percent (for the flag), having talked to people around the state and hearing their inclinations,” Hosemann told The Mississippi Press afterward. “I have to admit, I never thought we’d get over 70 percent. I guess that’s because politicians never get more than 60 percent.”

Hosemann, who presented new state flags to both the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce and the Pascagoula-Gautier School District, paid tribute to the state’s flag commission and the people for the overwhelming support.

“I think it’s a real tribute to the process we went through. The process of the flag commission was right. It allowed people across the state to have input,” he said. “And it’s a tribute to the people of Mississippi who were willing to look to a flag for the future. Now we can move forward and build our state up.”

Hosemann also discussed at length the COVID-19 outbreak, as numbers across the state continue to track upward from late summer. He dismissed suggestions Mississippi is in the second wave many expect.

“First, we’re not out. We’re not over this. People talk about a second wave, I don’t think we’re through the first wave,” said Hosemann, who contracted the coronavirus himself in July. “We’re not to a vaccine. The earliest a vaccine may be available is next year and a lot of people are saying they don’t want to take it then.

“So I think it becomes even more critical that we socially distance, that we don’t pack everybody into a wedding or funeral. Just stick with common sense measures.”

Even as Hosemann spoke to local officials Thursday, the Mississippi Department of Health reported more than 1,600 new cases of COVID-19 statewide.

“We are not going to finish this by Christmas — and maybe not by next Christmas,” he said. “Even if we have a vaccine, in talking with the companies that would distribute it and how it would be distributed, it’s still going to take a period of time even to distribute it.”

Hosemann noted he pushed the legislature to approve an additional $10 million in funding for state hospitals for more ICU beds. He also said a close friend of his from law school had recently died due to complications from COVID-19.

“It’s there. It’s very dangerous,” he said. “We’re treating it better, getting better results, but it’s still very dangerous. Continue to wear your mask, continue to do the common sense things.”

Hosemann also expressed concern over medical evidence suggesting those who have contracted COVID-19 have a risk of heart and kidney problems long after recovering from the virus itself.

“I’ve asked the (University of Mississippi Medical Center) to look at the long-term effects of this,” he said. “Anybody who’s had COVID could also have heart problems, kidney problems and other problems that can matriculate at other times. It’s not like the flu where you just get out of bed and go on.

“So in answer to the question are we over COVID — even people who have had COVID aren’t over COVID. So we’ll have this longer-term effect that we’ll have to be aware of. I am well aware, along with everybody else, that this is not over and we’re not in a second wave, we’re still in the first wave.”

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