Mississippi State Department of Health reported 2,094 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, along with 8 new deaths. In a press conference on Thursday, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said the Delta variant is sweeping over Mississippi “like a tsunami”, overwhelming the state’s health care system with an average of over 144 new hospital admissions each day.
According to Dr. Dobbs, each person infected with the highly contagious Delta variant will transmit the virus to 8 to 9 other people. This incredibly high transmission rate coupled with a low percentage of vaccinations is driving the surge in cases and hospitalizations, as well as increasing the risk for breakthrough infections.
The latest numbers from MDSH indicate that 97% of cases, 89% of hospitalizations and 85% of COVID-related deaths have occurred in unvaccinated individuals.
Mississippi has seen 51 breakthrough cases this year in which fully vaccinated individuals have died, of those, 41 were over the age of 65. Officials say that the fully vaccinated individuals who have died as a result of COVID-19 have a median age of 78 years, suggesting that the elderly that already suffer health complications are most at risk.
By contrast, 2,459 cases occurred in unvaccinated individuals this year, resulting in 1,805 deaths. Eight of those deaths were individuals ages 5 to 24. 82% of COVID-related deaths since July 8 were unvaccinated.
Many are concerned that the start of the school year will exacerbate the enormous pressure on the healthcare system and ICU beds already full at most hospitals.
“The University of Mississippi Medical Center is no different than many of the hospitals we’re seeing with this pressure,” said Senior Deputy and Director of Health Protection Jim Craig. “But also remember that UMMC is more than just a destination for COVID patients. It’s the state’s one and only Level 1 Trauma Center, so many of the very serious car accidents we see in the state or other traumatic events..[are] needing those same resources and those same ICU beds.”
As of Thursday, Dr. Paul Byers reported that 299 COVID patients were in the ICU, including four children and nearing the all time high of 360 experienced last winter. 150 patients are currently on ventilators, two of which are children.
“We learned last year in the schools that you can prevent COVID transmission in the classroom by the steady application of masks, spacing…you know, preventing the clustering of kids,” Dobbs said, noting. “We are not seeing that there is a lot of motivation for statewide mandates…a lot of this, right now, is dependent on local leaders to make the right decisions.”