Mississippi leaders concerned about record-high COVID-19 hospitalizations

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JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – These long upward trends in cases and hospitalizations are causing Mississippi hospitals to be backed up and overwhelmed with a lack of staff.

In his first official Coronavirus briefing in almost an entire month Governor Tate Reeves, the Department of Health and MEMA laid out plans and situations on vaccine distribution and expanding hospital accessibility.

December was one of the deadliest months for Mississippi losing about 1,000 people to COVID-19 and we have yet to see the full strength of the wave brought by Christmas and New Years’. So, the two biggest things for progress are vaccines and staffing hospitals properly.

By next week those in Mississippi 75 or older can begin receiving the vaccine themselves at drive-thru sites. Then those 65 and older can join in the week after.

“We’ll have operational, 18 high volume drive-thru sites and so that’s going on now,” Dr. Thomas Dobbs said. “There are 174 clinic partners that have signed up and that’s throughout the state.”

We’re still in phase 1a for vaccinating Mississippi which means all healthcare workers and those living in long-term care facilities are first in line. But early data shows long term care employees are not all turning out to be vaccinated.

“People who are residents of long-term care catch Coronavirus from employees,” Dr. Dobbs explained. “So, it’s so very important for people who work in long-term care settings, work in nursing homes to go ahead and get vaccinated now. It’s safe, it’s effective.”

The more vaccinated, the more stress can be taken off the state’s hospitals who have an all-time record of 355 patients in the ICU and 1,369 hospitalized. Only one ICU bed is open across the Jackson Metro.

“We have had conversations in the last couple of hours with what our options may be,” Governor Tate Reeves announced. “A request that is outstanding to the Federal Government with respect to giving us resources to open up additional ICU beds in a community hospital we just don’t have the staffing at this time.”

This staffing can also come through MEMA hiring private contractors to provide manpower and health resources. But no timeframe was specified on when that may happen if federal assets take too long.

In the first delivery to private clinics and pharmacy drive-thru sites 20,000 vaccine doses will be delivered. It comes at no charge except an injection fee but that can be covered by insurance, or Medicare and Medicaid.

“I’m here to tell you, we are now in a critical time and a very critical situation. Everyone needs to understand, and I think that everyone does understand the risk of getting COVID. The risk of our public health system and our public health system is overwhelmed. We are at a much greater risk today than at any other time during the pandemic, with respect to hospitalized patients and ICU beds full. And that’s why I ask you please take precautionary steps to protect yourselves and loved ones,” said Reeves.

The state is current in Phase 1A with the Mississippi State Department of Health’s plan to distribute the vaccine.

The governor’s Executive Order 1535 is still in effect until 5 p.m. on January 15th, 2021. The following counties are currently under a county wide mask mandates after meeting the certain requirements in relation to COVID-19: 

Adams, Alcorn, Amite, Attala, Benton, Bolivar, Calhoun, Carroll, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Clarke, Clay, Coahoma, Copiah, Covington, De Soto, Forrest, Franklin, George, Greene, Grenada, Hancock, Harrison, Hinds, Holmes, Humphreys, Itawamba, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Jefferson Davis, Jones, Kemper, Lafayette, Lamar, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Leake, Lee, Leflore, Lincoln, Lowndes, Madison, Marion, Marshall, Monroe, Montgomery, Neshoba, Newton, Noxubee, Oktibbeha, Panola, Pearl River, Perry, Pike, Pontotoc, Prentiss, Quitman, Rankin, Scott, Simpson, Smith, Stone, Sunflower, Tallahatchie, Tate, Tippah, Tishomingo, Union, Walthall, Warren, Washington, Wayne, Webster, Wilkinson, Winston, Yalobusha and Yazoo Counties.

As of now, 78 of Mississippi’s 82 counties are under mask mandates. A copy of the executive order 1535 can be found here

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