Hospitals in crunch as COVID cases proliferate

Published 3:39 pm Tuesday, August 10, 2021

The state Health Department said more than 6,900 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Mississippi from Friday through Sunday, including 80 in Lafayette County.

As of Tuesday, Lafayette County has 44 new COVID-19 cases and one new death.

Mississippi’s top public health official said Monday that as COVID-19 cases continue to surge with the highly contagious delta variant, no intensive care beds were available in 35 of the state’s top-level hospitals, which includes Baptist Memorial Hospital North Mississippi in Oxford.

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Dr. Thomas Dobbs, the state health officer, also said more than 200 people were waiting in hospital emergency rooms to be admitted, and the problem will grow worse in coming days. 

The wait times affect not only people with COVID-19 but also those with other health conditions.

“Keep in mind — this will translate into around 500 new hospitalizations in coming days,” Dobbs wrote on Twitter.

He said the intensive care units were full in Level 1, 2 and 3 hospitals in the state’s acute care systems. Those include the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson; North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo; Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg; Memorial Hospital in Gulfport and Singing River Health System in Pascagoula.

Despite reports from numerous healthcare professionals that the increase in COVID-19 cases are stretching hospitals’ resources and causing extreme stress for health care workers, CEO and administrator of Baptist Memorial Hospital Bill Henning said that the hospital remains prepared to treat patients.

Anyone who is having an emergency should come to the hospital immediately for care as waiting can make the condition worse,” said Henning. “Our physicians, nurses and other healthcare providers are committed to fighting patients with COVID-19 and patients with other medical issues.”

​​Lee Bond, chief executive officer of Singing River Health System, said in a statement Thursday that Mississippi is experiencing a “hellacious wave” of COVID-19 cases.

“Our situation is indescribable, as we bear witness to both the best and worst in people,” Bond wrote. “Some of us will forever have the traumatic images of human suffering burned into our minds while fighting to save lives alongside one another.”

Mississippi has one of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the nation. As of Friday, the state Health Department said 35% of Mississippi residents were fully vaccinated, compared to 50% nationally. Only 43.76% of Lafayette County residents are fully vaccinated.

“It was recently said nationally that the Delta variant was becoming a ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated,'” Republican Gov. Tate Reeves wrote Monday on Twitter. “The most recent data from Mississippi suggest the same. Talk to your doctor. Assess the risk. Do the right thing for you. Do the right thing for your family.”

Mississippi schools have been starting classes in recent weeks, some with mask mandates and some without. 

Oxford City Schools have required masks for the first three weeks of the school year, while Lafayette County Schools are only recommended to wear masks.

The state has confirmed more than 365,000 cases of COVID-19 and about 7,650 coronavirus-related deaths since the pandemic started in the spring of 2020.