TUPELO • The Mississippi State Department of Health says increasing COVID-19 patients are once again putting pressure on hospitals.
“We’re going to have a rough few weeks,” said State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs during a Tuesday press briefing.”Delta is hitting us very strongly. We anticipate that we are going to continue to put additional pressure on the healthcare system.”
The delta variant, social activities during the summer such as the 4th of July and along with low vaccination rates are causing a perfect storm for an explosion in cases, Dobbs said. State hospitals are facing an increased caseload, increasing hospitalization, ICU utilization starting to rise to rates similar to last summer, and increased utilization of mechanical ventilators.
Currently, 13 hospitals in Mississippi have zero ICU beds, with a higher number having less than 10% availability.
“If you talk to your hospital administrators, docs, ICU docs and ER docs, they’ll tell you we’re getting to a point where we’re actually having to fly patients from the Delta to the Pine Belt to get access to care because there’s really not that much access to it right now,” Dobbs said.
A lack of ICU beds can impact everyone, even patients without coronavirus, Dobbs said.
“It’s not just if you have COVID if you can’t get an ICU,” Dobbs said, It’s if you have a heart attack, or if you have a stroke or if you’re pregnant and you need some emergency care. It’s going to affect everyone. We have once again threatened the healthcare system with the explosion of COVID.”
The vast majority of cases and deaths are unvaccinated. From June 13 to July 11, 93% of cases and 89% of both hospitalizations and deaths have been among unvaccinated people.
Breakthrough cases continue being a concern for older age groups. Of the deaths reported, all the deaths reported in vaccinated individuals are among those 65 and older. MSDH recommends older individuals and those with underlying conditions talk with their physician and consider being evaluated for a booster shot.
Mississippi remains below its worst levels of transmission, but trends worry state health officials. From April 26, 2020 to July 19, 2021, Mississippi had a dramatic spike in January, seeing a high of 1,444 confirmed COVID-19 patients, 360 confirmed ICU patients and 229 confirmed patients on ventilators.
“We just don’t need to go through this again,” said Dr. Dan Edney, a Vicksburg physician and regional health officer for the Central Public Health Region. “We have an answer so that we don’t have to go through those killing times again, and that’s vaccination.”
The delta variant continues worsening the fourth wave of the pandemic.
“We’re just seeing big outbreaks. We’re seeing a lot of cases in kids, and we’re seeing that translate into severe illness, death and hospitalization for middle aged and older folks,” Dobbs said.
As of July 19, there are 47 outbreaks in long-term care facilities. With the rise in cases, MSDH also anticipates a rise in deaths, Dobbs said.
MSDH is encouraging vaccinations and taking common sense steps to avoid spreading COVID-19, such as hosting events outside, mask wearing for at risk individuals and encouraging older and immunocompromised individuals to avoid mass gatherings.