As more and more front-line health care workers are receiving COVID-19 vaccinations this week, the state’s health care officials emphasize that Mississippians need to continue taking precautions to limit the spread of the virus. Of particular importance now is avoiding holiday parties and large 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.
Once health care workers, and residents of long-term care facilities are inoculated, the next group of Mississippians eligible for the vaccine will be those with preexisting conditions and other factors, such as obesity, that put them at a higher risk of infection and death from the virus. That group encompasses about 40% of Mississippi residents.
Healthy Mississippians may be unable to get the vaccine until next spring at the earliest.
A second vaccine from Moderna is expected to receive the go-ahead from the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use by the end of the week, making additional doses of vaccine available almost immediately.
The virus: locally, state and nationwide
Warren County reported 24 new cases Thursday. The 14-day total of new cases is 394, putting the county well into Gov. Tate Reeves hot spot definition that brings with it the probability of increased COVID-19 restrictions. The number of cases reported so far in December, 456, is more than double the cases reported last month.
It has been more than three weeks since Mississippi has seen fewer than 1,000 new cases reported per day. Mississippi reported 2,261 new cases Thursday. Ten of the first 17 days in December have seen more than 2,000 cases per day.
With more than 34,000 new cases reported so far in December, the state will see more than 63,000 cases by the end of the month if the current trend continues. That number will obliterate the previous monthly high of around 33,000 set only last month, and the July surge of 31,500 cases. State health officials expect cases to go even higher in January after the Christmas and New Year holidays and are 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 2,100 per day, with 14,949 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 have now surpassed the July high of around 1,250, and hospitals across Mississippi are reporting that no ICU beds are available for any seriously ill or injured person, not just COVID-19 patients. As of Tuesday, the Mississippi State Department of Health suspended elective surgeries statewide.
Nationally, the cumulative cases in the U.S. have soared to more than 17 million, and the rates of infection, hospitalization and deaths continue to rise. The number of people who have died in the U.S. since the beginning of the crisis numbers nearly 308,000.
At least 3,611 people died of the virus Wednesday in the U.S. — a new record for deaths in any one day — and at least 245,033 new cases were reported. As expected, the rate of deaths is increasing steeply after a surge in new cases. Deaths have increased 57% in the past two weeks, while cases have gone up about 29%. The number of people hospitalized across the nation now exceeds 113,000.
Local and statewide COVID-19 statistics for Thursday, Dec. 17
In Warren County, MSDH reported 24 new COVID-19 cases Thursday and no new deaths. The cumulative number of cases in Warren County to date is 2,243, and the county’s death toll is 67. The seven-day average of new cases in the county has risen to 31.1 per day, about six times higher than in early November when the average was about five cases per day.
Statewide, MSDH reported 2,261 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, bringing the total cumulative confirmed cases in Mississippi to 187,904. The seven-day average of new cases is 2,136 per day, about double 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 26 more Mississippians died Thursday of COVID-19 statewide. The cumulative number of deaths in the state is 4,320. The state’s rate of deaths to confirmed cases is about 2.3%. This rate drops as the number of cases go up faster than the number of deaths.
Deaths are a lagging indicator. While July saw the highest number of new cases since the crisis began, August saw the highest number of deaths. The highest number of deaths in any one day in Mississippi was 67 reported Aug. 25.
The 26 deaths MSDH reported Thursday occurred between Nov. 24 and Dec. 16 in the following counties:
|County||Deaths reported Thursday|
New cases and deaths were reported to MSDH as of 6 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 16. 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. 15, was 1,316. The number includes 1,240 with confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 76 people with suspected but unconfirmed cases. Of those with confirmed infections, 321 were critically ill and in intensive care units and 193 were on ventilators.
MSDH has estimated the number of people who can be presumed recovered from COVID-19 in Mississippi. That number is 148,466 through Sunday, Dec. 13. It represents about 79% of the cumulative 187,904 cases reported as of Thursday, Dec. 17.
The number of cumulative cases in Warren County three weeks ago, Thursday, Nov. 26, was 1,741, therefore the estimated number of people presumed recovered in the county is 1,674, or about 74.6% of the 2,243 cumulative cases reported as of Thursday, Dec. 17. The county has an estimated 502 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. 12, is 1,550,198 or about 52.1% 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 21.9% Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University. The national rate is 11.2%, and 5% or lower indicates adequate testing.
The total number of outbreaks in long-term care facilities is 236 Thursday, a decrease of three since Wednesday. About 37%, or 1,599, of the state’s total deaths were people in long-term care facilities. The cumulative number of COVID-19 cases in LTC facilities is 8,686 Thursday, about 4.6% of the state’s total cases.
A total of 31 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 Nov. 29.
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.