Several new polls show that Americans have begun embracing the new COVID-19 vaccines. While polls taken before the vaccines were available showed about half would not be inoculated, new polls from Gallup and others are showing a clear turnaround, with 60% to 73% now saying they will get the shots when they are available to them.
Mississippi began inoculating front-line health care workers Dec 14 and is now using both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The vaccines are similar; however, the Moderna vaccine does not require ultra-cold storage, making it easier to distribute to rural areas. Both vaccines require two shots three to four weeks apart.
Health care officials emphasize that Mississippians need to continue taking precautions to limit the spread of the virus, probably for several more months until the vaccines begin to take effect. Of particular importance right now is avoiding holiday parties and social gatherings with people outside of immediate family or household. That includes sporting events, in-person church services, weddings and funerals. In addition, wearing a mask in public, keeping 6 feet of social distance and practicing good hand hygiene continue to be essential.
For guidelines on celebrating the holidays safely, go to the MSDH website, where you will also find guidance for religious services during the holidays. The website also provides more information about the COVID-19 vaccines including answers to frequently asked questions.
The virus: locally, state and nationwide
Warren County reported 44 new COVID-19 cases Friday and Saturday. The 14-day total of new cases is 379. The number of cases reported so far in December, 700, is already far higher than July’s previous high of 521, with another five days to go. Expect to see more than 800 cases this month if the trend doesn’t change.
Tuesday, Gov. Tate Reeves added Warren County to his list of hot spot counties that now include all but four of Mississippi’s 82 counties — Claiborne, Issaquena, Sharkey and Tunica — three of which neighbor Warren.
The state is on track to see between 900 and 1,000 deaths in December making it the deadliest month for the virus in 2020. COVID-19 is one of the state’s leading causes of death at this time, according to State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs.
Saturday was the first time in more than a month since Mississippi reported fewer than 1,000 new cases in one day. The drop in new cases is likely due to holiday closures and is probably an undercount of new cases. Fifteen of the 26 days in December so far have seen more than 2,000 cases per day.
With nearly 52,000 new cases reported so far in December, the state will see around 62,000 cases by the end of the month if the current trend continues. Cases to date in December already obliterate the previous monthly high of around 33,000 set in November and the July surge of 31,500 cases.
State health officials expect cases, hospitalizations and deaths to go even higher in January after the Christmas and New Year holidays and are strongly urging Mississippians not to hold parties or other large gatherings that include people not in their immediate families.
The state’s seven-day average of new cases is more than 1,800 per day, with 12,912 new cases reported in the last week. The highest seven-day average in the last surge was around 1,360 for the week ending July 30.
The huge number of cases means a corresponding rise in the number of hospitalizations in the state. Hospitalizations surpass the July high of around 1,250 by at least 125 patients. On Christmas Eve, Mississippi saw 180 new admissions for COVID-19, a record high. Hospitals across the state — including Merit Health River Region in Vicksburg — are reporting that no ICU beds are available for any seriously ill or injured person, not just COVID-19 patients.
Mississippi’s health care system is overwhelmed, with another surge expected after the Christmas and New Year holidays. “It’s bad, and it’s getting worse,” Dobbs said.
As of Dec. 15, the Mississippi State Department of Health suspended elective surgeries statewide.
Nationally, the cumulative cases in the U.S. have soared to more than 18.7 million, with some sources putting the figure as high as 19.2 million. Rates of infection, hospitalization and deaths continue to rise although the rate of new cases seems to be slowing.
The number of people who have died in the U.S. since the beginning of the crisis is about 330,366.
At least 1,129 people died of the virus on Christmas Day in the U.S., and at least 91,922 new cases were reported. The drop in new cases, about 11%, is likely because of holiday closures. Deaths have dropped 1% in the past two weeks. The number of people hospitalized across the nation is about 119,000.
For now, the explosive growth in new cases seems to be slowing, but some states are still seeing record numbers of new cases. California, for example, added more than 300,000 cases for the seven days ending Dec. 22.
The rate of new infections in the Midwest and Mountain States continue to show improvement, while the South is emerging as one of the nation’s most affected regions. Tennessee is seeing more cases per capita than any other state, and Alabama is setting records for new cases and deaths. Mississippi is among several states where new deaths are on the rise.
The U.S. has imposed new restrictions on travelers from the U.K. after a new, far more contagious variant of the virus was detected. Research shows the new strain in 56% more contagious than previous versions, although it does not appear more deadly. The variant has already been reported in numerous countries around the globe, and almost all of it has been connected to travelers from the U.K.
Local and statewide COVID-19 statistics for Saturday, Dec. 26
In Warren County, MSDH reported 17 new COVID-19 cases Friday and one new death. An additional 27 cases were reported Saturday The cumulative number of cases in Warren County to date is 2,487, and the county’s death toll is 75. The seven-day average of new cases in the county 26.4 per day, more than five times higher than in early November when the average was about five cases per day, and more than twice as high as the beginning of December.
Statewide, MSDH reported 1,527 new COVID-19 cases Friday and 845 Saturday, bringing the total cumulative confirmed cases in Mississippi to 205,023. The seven-day average of new cases is 1,845 per day, about 50% higher than the seven-day average a month ago, when the state’s numbers were already on the rise. The current averages far outstrip the numbers seen at the height of the last surge in July.
At the beginning of the crises, the age group with the most COVID-19 cases were those over 65. Now, most new cases are seen in younger people who are more likely to survive the virus than those 65 and older. In December, the age group reporting the most cases in Mississippi are from 25 to 39 years old followed by those 50 to 64 years old.
MSDH reported that six more Mississippians died Friday and three more Saturday of COVID-19 statewide. The cumulative number of deaths in the state is 4,565. The state’s rate of deaths to confirmed cases is about 2.2%. This rate drops when the number of cases is going up faster than the number of deaths.
Deaths are a lagging indicator. During last summer’s surge, for example, July broke records for new cases. In August, deaths spiked. The current surge began in Mississippi in late October, and the state saw a record number of deaths in one day, 79, on Dec. 22. Before that, the highest number of one-day deaths in Mississippi was 67 reported Aug. 25. November and December case numbers have exceeded cases reported in July, and December’s death toll is on track to exceed August’s.
The six deaths MSDH reported Friday occurred between Dec. 23 and Dec. 24 in the following counties:
|County||Deaths reported Friday|
The three deaths reported Saturday occurred between Dec. 23 and Dec. 24 in the counties below:
|County||Deaths reported Saturday|
New cases and deaths were reported to MSDH as of 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 24, and Friday, Dec. 25. MSDH usually reports statistics on the COVID-19 coronavirus each day based on the previous day’s testing and death reports.
The primary metric concerning state health officials are the numbers of people hospitalized, and that number has risen steadily since Nov. 4. COVID-19 hospitalizations threaten the state’s health care system as never before.
The number of Mississippians hospitalized for the virus as of 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 22, was 1,377. The number includes 1,312 with confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 65 people with suspected but unconfirmed cases. Of those with confirmed infections, 339 were critically ill and in intensive care units and 195 were on ventilators.
MSDH has estimated the number of people who can be presumed recovered from COVID-19 in Mississippi. That number is 154,669 through Sunday, Dec. 20. It represents about 75.4% of the cumulative 205,023 cases reported as of Saturday, Dec. 26.
The number of cumulative cases in Warren County three weeks ago, Saturday, Dec. 5, was 1,930, therefore the estimated number of people presumed recovered in the county is 1,855, or about 74.6% of the 2,487 cumulative cases reported as of Saturday, Dec. 26. The county has an estimated 557 active cases.
These estimates are based on MSDH’s guidelines for calculating estimated recoveries when hospitalizations are not known, using the number of cases 21 days ago, less known outcomes (deaths).
The total number of Mississippians tested for COVID-19 (PCR and antigen tests identifying current infections) as of Saturday, Dec. 19, is 1,669,558 or about 56.1% of the state’s 2.976 million residents. MSDH reports statewide test results once a week. Without daily updated numbers of tests, it is impossible to accurately calculate Mississippi’s positivity rate (positive results to tests, seven-day average); however, the estimated rate was 22.3% Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University. The national rate is 10.7%, and 5% or lower indicates adequate testing.
The total number of outbreaks in long-term care facilities is 239 Saturday, unchanged since Thursday. About 36.4%, or 1,658, of the state’s total deaths were people in long-term care facilities. The cumulative number of COVID-19 cases in LTC facilities was 9,099 Thursday, about 4.5% of the state’s total cases.
A total of 37 deaths in Warren County were residents of LTC facilities.
MSDH is no longer reporting outbreaks in individual long-term care facilities in Mississippi and has replaced it with access to a database from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. You can access and search the data by provider here. The latest data available is for the week ending Dec. 13.
For additional information, visit the MSDH website or call the COVID-19 hotline seven days a week from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. at 877-978-6453.