Rising Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations in Mississippi are pushing death rates higher across the state, according to the state’s health officer.
“We’re going to see a lot of deaths in coming days, it’s just inevitable,” Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs told reporters on a briefing call Wednesday.
Covid cases have soared in Mississippi over the last month, jumping almost tenfold from a seven-day average of 267 new cases per day a month ago to 2,640 as of Tuesday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Deaths, while still relatively low, have similarly risen from a seven-day average of about 3 fatalities per day a month ago to more than 13, the data shows.
The states hospitals are getting crowded with Covid patients, which are taking up roughly 47% of the state’s available ICU beds, according to data compiled by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Most of the recent hospitalizations have been people under 50 years old, and the state is seeing more children hospitalized than what was seen last winter, state health officials said. There are currently six children with Covid in intensive care across the state with four of them life support and just one children’s specialty hospital in the state.
“We’ll see more and more of this especially as we see transmission around school settings,” Dobbs said.
About 97% of new cases in the state are in unvaccinated people, and the vast majority of deaths following the new cases will be in unvaccinated people, he said. Daily hospitalizations in the state are at their highest since the start of the pandemic.
“We wouldn’t be having this situation at all if we had a higher vaccination rate,” Dobbs said.
The state has the lowest vaccination rate per capita in the United States, but daily vaccination rates have tripled in the state over the past month amid the spread of the dominant delta variant, according to state health officials.
Immunization will take weeks to provide sufficient protection, Dobbs said. Patients are currently being turned away from local hospitals that are at capacity and redirected to other hospitals in the state that could be miles away from the patient’s home.
“Don’t be surprised if you get sick and end up in a hospital 200 miles away,” Dobbs said.
Mississippi health officials say they don’t see a drop in cases or hospitalizations in the coming weeks, “I don’t see this declining anything in the near future,” Dobbs said.
Vaccination is the best way to stop the spread of the delta variant, he said. If someone is not vaccinated, they should wear a mask in public, especially indoors, and avoid gatherings where transmission could occur.
“I understand peoples’ desire for individual freedoms, but we’re in this together and what one does, affects everyone,” Dobbs said.