State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs urged Mississippians in a Nov. 21 press conference to follow safety protocols as positive COVID-19 numbers spike.

Health officials are urging Mississippians to limit Thanksgiving gatherings as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations near record numbers ahead of the busy holiday.

“Please keep Thanksgiving small, local and outdoors,” State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs tweeted on Sunday along with a chart that showed hospitalizations nearing unprecedented rates.

The rise in COVID-19 cases in Mississippi — a surge only topped by the record spread in July and August — has persisted for nearly two straight months. On Saturday, the state health department reported a single-day record of 1,972 new cases. The seven-day rolling average reached 1,294 over the weekend, which is the highest mark since July 31.

READ MORE: The latest COVID-19 Mississippi trends with daily case, death and hospitalization updates.

The state health department also reported close to 900 total hospitalizations for people with the virus. That mark is at its highest point since Aug. 26. Health officials on Friday warned the public about managing spread in the cold months and during the holiday season.

“The number of critically ill patients we have in the hospital typically runs higher this time of year,” Timothy Moore, president of the Mississippi Hospital Association, said on Friday.

Moore noted that cases have risen after each major holiday weekend so far during the pandemic, most recently during Halloween.

“When you put an increase of COVID patients on top of that, then we’ve just exacerbated the problem moving forward,” he said.

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Alex Rozier, a native of New York City, is Mississippi Today’s data reporter. He analyzes data and creates visuals that further inform our reporting. He also reports on the environment, transportation and Mississippi culture and is a member of the engagement team. Alex, whose work has appeared in the Boston Globe and Open Secrets, has a bachelor’s in journalism from Boston University.