KDMC steady, other hospitals under COVID, flu strain

Published 8:33 am Monday, December 12, 2022

COVID is not as much a local threat currently, though flu may be on the rise.

Only one person was an in-patient at King’s Daughters Medical Center for flu-like symptoms this past weekend, but KDMC is “seeing a pretty good trend in the clinics with flu,” according to hospital marketing director David Culpepper.

“We’re not seeing so much COVID. It’s a little less invasive right now,” Culpepper said. “But there is a good amount of flu in the community.”

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Larger regional hospitals in the state have been at full capacity recently, causing state officials to urge Mississippians to be vaccinated against the flu and COVID-19 — to protect both themselves and the health care system.

“It’s the inability to transfer (patients) to a higher level of care — our Level 1 and Level 2 hospitals are really being swamped,” State Health Officer Dr. Dan Edney said Thursday. “… We’ve been having a lot of transfers go out of state.”

Hospitals in neighboring states are also in similar situations and not able to accept transfers.

Available intensive care unit (ICU) beds around Mississippi are dwindling, with 65 beds available statewide — a trend similar to the past two winters, said Edney.

As of Thursday, only 27 ICU beds were available at larger hospitals.

“That’s 27 beds for everything — trauma, strokes, heart attacks. Not just flu and COVID,” he said. “We want to protect those beds as best we can.”

As of 1 p.m. Thursday, the University of Mississippi Medical Center — the state’s only Level 1 trauma center — was at capacity, meaning beds are full, said a spokesperson for UMMC.

St. Dominic Memorial Hospital in Jackson is also experiencing issues with capacity.

“St. Dominic’s is working diligently to explore every possible solution to meet the care and safety needs of patients in the communities we serve,” said Meredith Bailess, the hospital’s marketing director.

Edney, along with State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers, urged Mississippians to get their bivalent COVID-19 booster, which includes a component of the original virus strain and a component of the omicron variant to provide better protection against the current dominant strain of the virus.

“This (bivalent booster) is a very important booster vaccine to provide protection not only against infection but also protection from those hospitalizations and protect us from deaths,” said Byers. “It’s extremely important for us now, especially the most vulnerable people in our population, to make sure everyone who is eligible is up to date with the bivalent booster vaccine.”

Mississippi’s bivalent booster uptake has been low, as has the nation’s.

Mississippi is seeing “very high” flu activity, and Edney and Byers also encouraged people to get their flu shots.

Mississippians can make an appointment for COVID-19 and flu vaccines at the health department website. Vaccine appointments are also available at the federal website vaccines.gov.

“Do what you can to protect yourself and your family so you don’t wind up in the health care system when it’s under stress,” said Edney.

“Be smart,” Culpepper said. “Wash your hands and use common sense.”

Mississippi Today contributed to this article.