State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs offered a bleak outlook Tuesday about the spread of COVID-19 in Mississippi.

The Mississippi State Department of Health reported 79 COVID-19 deaths on Dec. 21, topping the previous single-day record of 67 deaths on Aug. 25.

As COVID-19 cases continue to climb and hospital ICU space continues to dwindle, the state’s top health official spoke bluntly about the virus in the state and warned people to limit Christmas and other holiday gatherings this week.

“It’s bad and it’s gonna get worse,” State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said Tuesday in a press conference. “Holidays are weak points for us. We let our guard down, and we allow transmission to occur that doesn’t have to occur.”

Dobbs took time during the press conference to read some information about several of Monday’s reported deaths.

“Eighty-four year old white male. Sixty-seven year-old Black female. Fifty-one year-old white male,” Dobbs said. “… These are people who would be with us for next Christmas, by and large. These are people… they didn’t have to die. If we did a little better, if we collectively were a little better at making sure we didn’t spread COVID, these people would be alive.”

This year, the state has reported 197,691 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 4,490 total deaths. To go along with the 79 deaths on Monday, the state reported 2,191 new COVID-19 cases.

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Adam Ganucheau, as Mississippi Today's editor-in-chief, oversees the newsroom and works with the editorial team to fulfill our mission of producing high-quality journalism in the public interest. Adam has covered politics and state government for Mississippi Today since February 2016. A native of Hazlehurst, Adam has worked as a staff reporter for, The Birmingham News and The Clarion-Ledger and his work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Adam earned his bachelor’s in journalism from the University of Mississippi.