JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Mississippi is approaching its record number of COVID-19 hospitalizations as the virus continues spreading rapidly in a state with one of the lowest vaccination rates in the U.S.
The state Health Department reported Tuesday that 1,410 patients with confirmed cases of COVID-19 were in Mississippi hospitals Monday. Cases and hospitalizations have risen sharply in recent weeks because of the highly contagious delta variant of the virus.
Mississippi’s highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations for a single day was 1,444 on Jan. 4, before vaccines against the virus were widely available.
Some are waiting for Governor Tate Reeves’ response to the current COVID-19 crisis. He’s back in Mississippi after attending a Republican Governors Conference on Monday, where he was the keynote speaker.
Much of the criticism the governor has been facing is tied to his indirect messaging amid the pandemic.
“We’re seeing whole families come in that have COVID or attended a funeral and 15 members out of the funeral that were close together with COVID,” stated Terri Dyess, the director of Hospital Medicine at St. Dominic in Jackson.
According to leaders at St. Dominic Hospital in Jackson, the younger population makes up the growing number of COVID cases. Health officials said 20 and 30-year olds are on ventilators at the hospital. As of Tuesday morning, nine patients were waiting for an ICU bed at St. Dominic.
With staffing shortages and space needed for COVID patients, some patients at the hospital have been transferred to smaller facilities that have the capacity to treat them.
“It’s painful in many respects. It just backs up all the way down. If you come to the emergency room, you’re going to expect a wait of eight to 10 hours because emergencies are bumping ahead of you, and it’s going to usually be COVID respiratory failure that’s bumping ahead of you,” said Dyess.
She said St. Dominic is down 160 nurses. Healthcare workers on the frontline are trying to make do with what they have. In some cases, they’re renting and borrowing ventilators from other facilities that don’t have as many cases.
12 News spoke with Mississippi Today’s Adam Ganucheau about why Gov. Reeves’ hasn’t said much about the pandemic. Ganucheau pointed to politics.
“People on the left criticize him for not being definitive and direct enough about encouraging Mississippi to get the vaccine. People on political right critique him for being too hands on, for telling them what to do,” he said.
Mississippi’s COVID-19 State of Emergency is expected to end on Sunday, August 15. Several months ago, the governor ended the mask mandate.
As of Tuesday, the state Health Department said 35% of Mississippi residents were fully vaccinated, compared to about 50% nationally.
The Health Department said that between July 13 and Monday, unvaccinated people made up 97% of those newly diagnosed with COVID-19, 89% of those hospitalized with it and 85% of those who died from it.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.