Mississippi health officials said nearly a thousand hospital beds that could be used to treat patients are empty due to staff shortages.
“We’re still nowhere near the staff we need for the beds we need,” senior deputy for the Mississippi Department of Health Jim Craig said on Wednesday according to The Associated Press.
According to Craig, 73 Mississippi hospitals have requested 1,451 staff members to treat patients. Over 250 people were waiting in emergency rooms for hospital beds as of Wednesday morning the AP reported.
If all these positions were to be filled, then Mississippi would be able to staff 771 medical-surgical beds and 235 intensive care unit beds, Craig said.
The AP notes that Mississippi is among the lowest-paying states for healthcare workers, which state health officials acknowledged may be one factor contributing to the labor shortage.
Mississippi is among the states most impacted by the latest surge in COVID-19 cases brought on by the delta variant. The Magnolia State broke its record for highest seven-day average in cases this past weekend, recording an average of 110 cases per 100,000 residents.
The state is currently under a state of emergency due to the surge. Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) has remained firm in his decision to not issue a statewide mask mandate, instead encouraging residents to get vaccinated.
On Wednesday, a 13-year-old Mississippi girl died one day after she tested positive for COVID-19. She is believed to be the fifth COVID-19 pediatric death to be recorded in Mississippi. It is unclear whether she was vaccinated.
As of Tuesday, there are 1633 confirmed COVID-19 patients in Mississippi who are hospitalized per the Mississippi State Department of Health.
According to the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 tracker, Mississippi has confirmed nearly 400,000 COVID-19 cases and almost 8,000 deaths. The state currently has a testing positivity rate of about 18 percent and around 37 percent of the state's total population is fully vaccinated.