Mississippi breaks its 1-day COVID hospitalization record
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi has broken its single-day records of COVID-19 hospitalizations, intensive-care use and new coronavirus cases.
The state’s previous record for hospitalization was 1,444 on Jan. 4 and for intensive care was 360 on Jan. 12 — before COVID-19 vaccinations were widely available.
The new cases reported Thursday are a 26% increase over the 3,488 cases the department reported in the state Tuesday. The numbers reported Wednesday also exceeded 3,000. The sharp uptick in cases this week indicates more challenges in coming days for already-strained hospitals.
The state health officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, said the latest trends suggest the new virus cases reported Thursday are likely to cause about 93 more deaths and more than 300 new hospitalizations.
“Let us be very clear that the vast majority of cases and hospitalizations and deaths are unvaccinated,” Dobbs said.
COVID-19 cases in Mississippi have risen sharply in recent weeks because of the highly contagious delta variant of the virus, and public health officials are imploring people to get vaccinated. Mississippi has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the nation.
“Our ICU beds are full from COVID,” Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann said Thursday in a video on Twitter. “We’re treating people in the emergency rooms and in the waiting rooms, in some cases, in some of our hospitals.”
Hosemann, who had COVID-19 last summer and is vaccinated, said: “To determine why this last wave has occurred, unfortunately, I think we only have to look in the mirror.”
Republican Gov. Tate Reeves said Thursday he is extending his state-of-emergency order for 30 days to give public health officials and other government leaders some flexibility in responding to the coronavirus pandemic. The order had been set to expire Sunday.
“There will be no lockdowns and there will be no statewide mandates,” Reeves wrote on Twitter.
Reeves said the extension will allow the state to continue coordinating the transfer of patients to hospitals where treatment is available. He also said it will keep options open for Mississippi National Guard members to be called back into service, if needed, for pandemic duties. Guard members spent months running COVID-19 vaccination drive-thru sites until Reeves ended that in mid-July.
Reeves issued his first pandemic order in March 2020, later adding and subtracting conditions such as business restrictions and mask orders aimed at slowing the spread of the virus. The last of his mask mandates disappeared when the 2020-21 school year ended.
Dr. Alan Jones, associate vice chancellor for clinical affairs at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, said the rapid increase in new cases is putting stress on the state hospital system, with few intensive care unit beds available in Mississippi.
Officials announced Wednesday that Mississippi is opening a temporary field hospital and the federal government is sending medical professionals to help treat COVID-19 patients.
The field hospital is on reserve for disasters. The air-conditioned tent, with hospital beds, heart monitors and other equipment, has been set up in a parking garage at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, and it is set to open Friday. Under a system of coordinated care, COVID-19 patients could be moved to the field hospital from hospitals from around the state, to open beds for other patients.
“It’s gotten to the point where we’re just unable to care for the patients at UMC and in the state of Mississippi that need the care,” Jones said Thursday.
The state Health Department said 36% of Mississippi residents are fully vaccinated, compared to about 50% nationally. It also said that between July 13 and Wednesday in Mississippi, unvaccinated people made up 98% of those newly diagnosed with COVID-19, 90% of those hospitalized with it and 84% of those who died from it.
Mississippi has just under 3 million residents. The state Health Department has reported 376,124 cases of COVID-19 and 7,730 coronavirus-related deaths in the state since the pandemic started.