On Sunday, the number of patients in Mississippi hospitals with confirmed COVID-19 infections hit a new record, with 1,008 patients. Adding another 107 people with suspected infections brought the number to 1,115 people.
State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs, who heads the Mississippi State Health Department, called the situation “truly serious” in a tweet Monday.
New record in total COVID hospitalizations. And this is before an anticipated Thanksgiving acceleration. Many thanks to hospitals in maintaining adequate ICU care.
This is truly serious. Protect yourselves and your family now. And we all know how. pic.twitter.com/FMS2vGrZmz
— thomas dobbs (@TCBPubHealth) November 30, 2020
Dobbs noted in his tweet that he expects a post-holiday acceleration of new cases , which already average more than 1,300 per day in Mississippi. In addition, the normal dip in the number of reported cases over weekends and holidays did not occur over the Thanksgiving weekend. Generally, fewer tests are run Saturdays and Sundays, and fewer clinics report results. Instead, 3,330 new cases were reported to MSDH for Saturday and Sunday, rushing past the 150,000 threshold of cases since March when the first case was confirmed in Mississippi.
Top health officials shared Dobbs’ concern regarding the entirety of the U.S. A record number of travelers headed home for the holidays, ignoring advice not to travel from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other sources. The Transportation Security Administration reports that around 3 million Americans flew the day before and after Thanksgiving. Sunday was the busiest day in airports since March.
“It’s going to get worse over the next several weeks, but the actions that we take in the next several days will determine how bad it is or whether or not we continue to flatten our curve,” U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said on Fox News Sunday.
Flattening the curve of hospitalizations has been the primary goal of many restrictions surrounding the pandemic, but the U.S. is approaching record numbers instead. About 95,000 people are hospitalized across the country, stretching the health care system to a breaking point in some areas.
“It looked like things were starting to improve in our northern plain states, and now with Thanksgiving, we’re worried that all of that will be reversed,” said Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, on CBS News’ Face the Nation.
Birx and others emphasized that people need to take it upon themselves to be restrictive, even in places that do not have specific regulations in place to curb the spread of the virus. In Mississippi, the governor has put half of the state’s 82 counties under mask mandates and other measures, even as leading health officials plead that he impose a mask mandate statewide. The state reported a record number of new cases in November, with more than 33,000, bring the cumulative case count well over 150,000 by the end of the month.
Although Warren County is not on the governor’s list, Vicksburg’s Mayor George Flaggs Jr. and the Warren County Board of Supervisors have imposed mask mandates. Those mandates are likely the reason Warren County has not suffered the huge increases seen elsewhere in the state. The county reported only one death this month, and it is unclear from MSDH data when that death actually happened. Even so, the average for new cases has nearly doubled in November (from about five per day to 9.7).
As a group, health officials are strongly advocating that people protect themselves and others by wearing masks, practicing good hand hygiene and distancing themselves from others including limiting the sizes of groups — the same advice they have given since almost since the start of the crisis.
As Dobbs said in his tweet, “Protect yourselves and your family now. And we all know how.”