On a day that Mississippi experienced its largest one-day rise in new COVID-19 cases since late January with 1,875 cases, the state’s top health officials outlined the latest data as it relates to vaccinations, hospital capacity and discussed a return to the “COVID-19 system of care plan.”
The rise of the Delta variant has not only led to an increase in cases, but it is also placing a strain on the state’s healthcare system. Currently, hospitalizations are back over 650 and 28 Mississippi hospitals are out of ICU bed space. Due to the current situation, MSDH is reactivating the ‘system of care plan’ that will see patients directed to available beds across the state. The order takes effect tomorrow (July 29th) and will last until at least August 15th. On Monday, August 1st, MSDH will ask that facilities delay elective procedures requiring overnight hospitalization in an effort to free up bed space.
With the recent surge at the state’s hospitals, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs expressed that this phase may be more challenging than any other wave “from a hospital resource perspective” as the state deals with a shortage of nurses.
“We have, in many ways, worn out our healthcare professionals, especially nurses…This is the fourth wave of hospitalizations we’ve seen. I mean, there’s only so much that we can expect for people to put up with and we’re putting a lot more stress on them now. I think it’s going to be a super big challenge, and I want to thank them for being the heroes they are,” Dr. Dobbs said.
The MSDH has also updated its public health guidance to reflect the changes announced by the CDC Tuesday. The update urges all Mississippians to wear a mask in all indoor public settings, even if you are vaccinated. This is due to the fact the there is currently a heightened level of transmission occurring across the state. State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers mentioned that the MSDH will also recommend universal masking in schools just as the CDC has done.
So far, 22 school districts & two individual schools have signed up for the MSDH’s COVID-19 testing initiative as the academic year nears. Dr. Dobbs stressed that kids need to be back in the classroom and that it can be done safely.
While seeing slight increases in recent weeks, Mississippi’s vaccination rate remains low and health officials continue to strongly recommend that all eligible Mississippians (ages 12+) get the shot to protect themselves and their communities.
Dr. Dobbs shared updated data showing that 96% of new cases are among unvaccinated individuals. 88% of hospitalizations and 82% of deaths are also in unvaccinated Mississippians. Dr. Dobbs did state that they are seeing some “spillover” into some subsets of vaccinated individuals—especially the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.
The MSDH also reported the death of a teenager—the fourth child to die from COVID-19 in Mississippi. The teenager did have what Dr. Dobbs called a “common” underlying condition. The Delta variant has led to an increased number of hospitalized children and young adults.
As for booster doses, it remains the stance of the MSDH that the immunocompromised should consult their doctor on potentially getting a third dose of the vaccine.