Mississippi’s top health official, Dr. Thomas Dobbs III, tweeted Monday that a “4th wave” of the virus had hit the state, even though it “didn’t have to be”.
Dobbs warned over the weekend that beds in intensive care units “were getting tight again” and that 11 major ICU facilities in the state had zero beds available. The number of available adult ICU beds statewide (138) is the lowest since March, according to state health data.
Meanwhile, cases of confirmed Covid patients in Mississippi hospitals reached 369 this weekend, a number also not seen since March, with about 34 percent of patients currently in intensive care. In the past three weeks, the state has struggled with a more than 200 percent increase in Covid patients hospitalized.
Dobbs said on Monday on the radio show “SuperTalk Mississippi” that almost every new case of Covid can be attributed to the delta variant, and the state reports a threefold increase in the number of new cases Friday through Sunday compared to the same period a week earlier. an average of about 800 new cases per day.
“It’s all age groups, but we’re seeing a lot of growth in kids, teens and then young adults because summer has started. Our vaccination rates, our immunity rates are very low in that group of people,” Dobbs said, adding his state has “a phenomenal wave of healthy and mostly healthy 40-year-old people in the ICU, on a ventilator and dying.”
While only three Covid-related deaths were reported over three days last week, Dobbs said he expected the number to increase as new data comes in, and more than 90 percent of those who died had not been vaccinated against the disease.
Dobbs remained an outspoken advocate for wearing masks and avoiding social gatherings in his state, even as Governor Tate Reeves, a Republican, lifted pandemic restrictions in early March after saying “the number of hospitalizations and the number of cases have fallen and that the vaccine is spreading rapidly.”
But this month, the Mississippi Department of Health announced new recommendations to help prevent the spread of the delta variant, urging residents 65 and older to avoid mass indoor gatherings regardless of their vaccination status and for all residents 12 and older. to get a Covid vaccine.
The percentage of fully vaccinated people in Mississippi is less than 34 percent — the lowest in the country next to Alabama, according to federal health data analyzed by NBC News. Other states with lagging vaccination rates include Arkansas at 35 percent, Louisiana at 36 percent, Georgia at 37.5 percent, and Tennessee at 38 percent.
At the University of Mississippi Medical Center at Jackson, the hospital is expanding its isolation rooms and turning other rooms into “Covid treatment rooms” – indicating that the situation is worsening and that the number of cases is ticking back to a level of a year ago , said Dr. Jonathan Wilson, hospital chief and incident manager for the Covid response, Monday.
Of the 55 people admitted to the Medical Center after being diagnosed with or suspected of having the disease, five adults were in ICU. In addition, two of the seven children with Covid were confirmed in the ICU.
On Thursday, the hospital announced that all employees must be vaccinated or wear an N95 mask when on site, a policy to be implemented in three months.
“We take care of the sickest patients imaginable, from geriatric patients to neonatal patients,” Wilson said in a statement. “There’s just no room for error. We have to do what’s right for the patient, and the best thing we can do is get vaccinated.”
The delta variant was also responsible for peaks in cases outside the South. In California, where vaccination rates are above 60 percent, the number of new confirmed cases has risen by 225 percent in the past two weeks.
Studies have shown that the Covid-19 vaccines are very safe and effective. But misinformation continues to cast doubt, especially in conservative and rural areas.
Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, embarked on a statewide tour after taking over the presidency of the National Governors Association and has urged the federal government to approve the vaccines in full rather than emergency approval. used by opponents that they may not be safe.
“Let me make sure it’s clear: I’m not asking you to trust the government,” Hutchinson told an audience in Texarkana last week, according to The Associated Press. “I’m asking you to watch, do your own research, talk to people you trust, and that’s the right approach for me.”
The approach is different from that of other Republicans who portray health leaders as adversaries even as they try to get things done.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been selling shirts and other merchandise labeled “Don’t Fauci My Florida.” In Missouri, Governor Mike Parson has suggested that some health officials are trying to scare people into getting vaccinated. Tennessee’s top vaccine official was fired amid the GOP’s anger at its efforts to get teens vaccinated.
Mette, of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, said convincing more people to get vaccinated will be the key to turning the tide on rising cases. But, he said, mandating vaccinations or blaming people for getting vaccinated will only widen the gap, and it may take one-on-one conversations or worsen the Covid crisis in his condition before attitudes change. .
“People have heard our messages ad nauseam, but to see patients struggling to breathe and wishing they were vaccinated can make a difference,” Mette said. “Those are real people who get really sick.”