Mississippi struggles with rising COVID-19 cases

Mississippi struggles with rising COVID-19 cases
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Mississippi is struggling in its fight against the coronavirus while cases continue to rise and the vaccination rate is ranked one of the lowest in the country. 

There has been a 121 percent increase in cases the past two weeks, data from The New York Times shows, with an average of more than 2,500 new cases a day emerging in the past week. 

The battle against the rise in cases has been particularly challenging for the Southern state as it faces one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country with only 35 percent of the population fully vaccinated.

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The high case rate coupled with low vaccination rates has led to an increased pressure on the health care system.

"The rate of testing positive and rate of hospitalizations that we are seeing, if we continue that trajectory within the next 5 to 7 to 10 days I think we're going to see failure of the hospital system of Mississippi," Alan Jones, head of COVID-19 clinical response at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, said Wednesday, Clarion Ledger reported.

Although intensive care unit beds are filling up in hospitals across the state, Republican Gov. Tate Reeves stated that is not the biggest challenge for the system.

Honestly, the real challenge is NOT the physical beds – hospital beds or ICU beds. The challenge is our hospitals may not have an adequate number of health care professionals (docs, nurses, respiratory therapists, etc.) to staff those beds,” Reeves said in a Facebook post Wednesday. 

The state has lost almost 2,000 health care workers in the past year. The governor says the loss in workers has come from layoffs and administrative decisions in hospitals “such as mandating vaccines.” 

The governor said the state will be adding more beds, requesting help from other states and delaying elective surgeries to combat the strain put on hospitals.

The Mississippi Department of Health announced Thursday the state has broken all previous hospitalization records through the pandemic. 

“Today the state has surpassed all previous highs in Mississippians hospitalized for COVID-19. Hospitals are operating at emergency capacity to cope with the incoming flood of COVID-19 patients,” the department tweeted.

“Of the nearly 1,500 now in a hospital for COVID-19, more than 1,300 are unvaccinated,” it added.

LouAnn Woodward, the head of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, said Wednesday a 50-bed field hospital in a parking garage will be set up by Friday to help deal with the rise in cases. 

The governor announced Thursday a state of emergency will be extended for another 30 days, insisting “there will be no lockdowns and there will be no statewide mandates.”

“This extension will ease the process of marshalling additional resources for our response (that I described yesterday), allow our system of care to continue to transfer patients to hospitals where treatment is available, ensure expanded access to telemedicine, and will keep options open for use of the great men and women of the MS National Guard,” Reeves stated.

Staffing issues and an increase in cases are not only an issue in Mississippi but are also popping up in other states, including Florida and Arkansas.

The rise in cases nationwide has spurred from the delta variant of the coronavirus, which has traveled quicker than previous strains.

States such as Mississippi are suffering worst from this new wave of cases due to the low vaccination rate; fully vaccinated individuals who contract the virus are much less likely to be hospitalized or die from the virus.

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Reeves encouraged residents to get the vaccine as data showed 97 percent of new cases in the state are among the unvaccinated.

Updated at 3:26 p.m.