Virus cases just keep growing across state

Published 6:00 pm Friday, August 13, 2021

More than 5,000 new positive test results — 5,023 to be exact — were announced by the state health department Friday morning, and 31 more related deaths.

In a week that has seen the three largest one-day totals for Mississippi across the COVID-19 pandemic, Friday’s number is the new peak.

MSDH reported 3,488 new cases Tuesday, Aug. 10; then 4,412 new cases Thursday, Aug. 12, a 21% jump from Tuesday. Friday’s 5,023 bumped the state’s overall total to 381,147 cases to date. There have been 7,761 related fatalities.

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Lincoln County’s numbers have continued to climb, as well, adding 35 new cases Friday and about 75 over the course of the week, to reach 4,400. Deaths are at 118, with two new fatalities reported over the past seven days.

Eighteen COVID-positive patients were in King’s Daughters Medical Center as of 10:30 a.m. Friday, all unvaccinated. All 11 in the intensive care unit were on ventilators. Emergency room staff had seen 32 COVID-related patients in the previous 24 hours and staff had administered 29 infusions of monoclonal antibodies within that same time period.

“Staffing is stretched thin and there are no available beds,” KDMC publicist David Culpepper said.

Statewide, 1,490 patients were in hospitals with confirmed coronavirus infections as of Wednesday afternoon, the latest posted data from MSDH. One-fourth of these — 388 — were in intensive care units and 264 were on ventilators. An additional 88 patients were hospitalized with suspected COVID-19 infections.

The University of Mississippi Medical Center is so overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients that it has constructed a field hospital in a parking garage. The measure is necessary to increase capacity because UMMC is maxed in its staffed intensive care unit beds.

“If we track back a week or so when we look at the case positivity rate, the rate of new cases, the rate of hospitalizations — if we continue that trajectory within the next five to seven to 10 days, I think we’re going to see failure of the hospital system in Mississippi,” Dr. Alan Jones, UMMC associate vice chancellor for clinical affairs, said during a press conference on Wednesday.

Dr. LouAnn Woodward, UMMC’s vice chancellor, called the field hospital “a Band-Aid,” noting it as a helpful but limited addition to the hospital’s toolkit. It will be able to host a maximum of 50 COVID-19 patients, and UMMC expects the federal government to send between 30-35 medical professionals to staff it.

Wednesday, Gov. Tate Reeves said Mississippians should remain calm and that total hospitalizations “remain below where they were at our peak from August of 2020.”

Reeves also said the state’s total number of patients in ICU beds remains “at or near our peak levels from August of 2020.”

Those claims are incorrect, however.

In August 2020, COVID-related hospitalizations peaked at 978. Tuesday that number was 1,378 — 400 higher.

One year ago, the peak number of ICU beds filled with COVID-related patients was 337. Tuesday that number was 388.

Health experts continue to stress that being fully vaccinated is the only adequate protection against COVID-19. Though Mississippi’s vaccination rate has increased significantly in recent weeks — up 107%, according to MSDH — it still lags behind 48 other states.

State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs expressed his frustration with those declining vaccines on Wednesday, noting that they are driving the surge in cases, hospitalizations and deaths that has brought the state’s healthcare system to such a weakened and threatened state.

“I kind of personally feel like I’m an air traffic controller, and every day I’m watching two airliners collide,” Dobbs said.