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‘We’re watching this train wreck’: UMMC chief says governor should postpone school reopenings

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Vice Chancellor UMMC Dr. LouAnn Woodward (Photo courtesy UMMC)

A top public health official said Monday that Gov. Tate Reeves should postpone the return of public schools as Mississippi becomes one of the nation’s worst COVID-19 hotspots and the state’s hospital capacity dwindles.

Most public schools across the state plan to resume in-person activities this week. Reeves, who is the only state official with the authority to issue a blanket order to delay the start of school, is expected to announce a decision on the matter this week.

Dr. LouAnn Woodward, the vice chancellor of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, said in an interview with Mississippi Today on Monday that reopening schools would place further strain on the state’s hospitals, which are struggling to keep up with the skyrocketing number of coronavirus patients.

“Those of us in healthcare feel like we’re watching this train wreck happen, and somehow even many of our friends are blind to it,” Woodward said of the state’s recent explosion of COVID-19 cases in a phone interview. “I think most people, when they’re thinking about reopening school and the logistics of that, are starting to understand some of that stress and strain on our healthcare system.”

Woodward continued: “In my heart, I want us to get back to school. There are a lot of children who really need to be in school for a variety of reasons. However, I don’t think we’re at a point right now where it’s the right, best and safe thing to do.”

Mississippi currently has the highest COVID-19 positivity rate in the country and the third-highest daily new case rate. COVID hospitalizations continue to rise, and the daily patient rolls nearly doubled in the past month. A recent report from George Washington University shows Mississippi is one of 11 states either at or nearing a shortage of ICU providers.

Reeves spent the weekend personally assessing reopening plans of the state’s 138 public school districts, which had to submit proposals to the state by Friday. The districts, thus far, have been given free rein to decide for themselves how and when to reopen, and most have opted to resume in-person instruction within the next week.

But last week, Reeves suggested he could delay the reopenings with a statewide mandate after reading the districts’ plans.

Reeves allowing Mississippi schools to reopen would send more than 465,000 students, more than 30,000 teachers and thousands of other school staffers back to the classrooms this months. Education advocates say already cash-strapped school districts can’t handle the demands of virus preparation and warn that students, teachers and staff will suffer. Health experts say allowing schools to reopen now will further strain the hospital system.

Woodward said that Reeves should delay the reopening of schools “until after Labor Day,” and that schools should be under strict mask mandates and have more testing capabilities when they do open.

State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs, Reeves’ top coronavirus adviser, also said in a Friday video session with the Mississippi State Medical Association that schools shouldn’t reopen until September.

“I was off,” Dobbs said in the video. “I thought maybe it would be the right time to start in August — until about a little while ago… I think it’s a good idea to delay school. There’s nothing magic about August.”

In recent days, Reeves has publicly warned of the dangers associated with children not returning to the classroom. Many parents are worried about how they’ll keep their jobs or handle childcare if their kids don’t start school on time. Parents and teachers alike have expressed concern over students’ wellbeing if they miss school and in-person interaction in a rural state where many districts lack the ability to provide adequate distance learning.

“The reopening of schools in this environment is a major challenge. I understand that,” Reeves said in a press conference on Thursday. “But to those individuals in our state who say the public health of the spread of the risk of the coronavirus is the only risk at play when making a decision about our schools are ignoring so many other risks that exist out there.”

Reeves continued: “We know that we are not going to mitigate 100% of the risk on either side of this equation. What we must do is look for innovative ways to reach what we all believe is the right outcome. And the right outcome longterm for kids is that they are in an environment that is loving and produces and provides an educational opportunity.”

As he weighs the schools decision, Reeves is also drawing scorn for not issuing a statewide mask mandate, as most other states have done, and Mississippi’s COVID statistics continue to worsen. As of Monday, Mississippians in 37 of the state’s 82 counties — representing more than half of the state’s population — were required to wear masks in public because of an executive order from Reeves.

Several medical professionals and local politicians have questioned why Reeves has ordered mask mandates for individual counties that are already seeing spikes in cases rather than being more proactive with a statewide mandate and stopping the virus spread before it begins.

In the Monday interview, Woodward reiterated that UMMC and most of the state’s largest hospitals don’t currently have the space or staffing to keep up with the state’s rising COVID hospitalizations.

“The thing I would emphasize is the fatigue of health care workers,” Woodward said. “They are frazzled, and they are worn out. There is no definite end in sight for the work they’re going to have to be doing. Now we know this pandemic is not going to go on for 10 years, but still you’re talking about months. For their stamina and their ability to continue to give everything they have, we need buy-in from the public with mask wearing and distancing. We need this to be taken seriously.”


This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

COVID-19

Mississippi’s new COVID-19 cases continued to climb Wednesday; death reported in Warren County

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New COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continued a steady climb Wednesday in Mississippi as they have been doing for more than 10 days.

The Mississippi State Department of Health reported five new COVID-19 cases Wednesday in Warren County and one new death, identified from a death certificate report. The cumulative number of cases in Warren County to date is 1,481, and the county’s death toll is 54.

Statewide, MSDH reported 876 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, bringing the total cumulative confirmed cases in Mississippi to 106,817. The seven-day average of new cases is 654, higher by 241 cases from a month ago.

Most new cases are seen in younger people recently, and they are more likely to survive the virus than those 65 and older. By far, the age group reporting the most cases in Mississippi are young people from 18 to 29 years old.

MSDH reported Wednesday that 25 additional Mississippians died of COVID-19 statewide. The cumulative number of deaths in the state is 3,140. The state’s rate of deaths to confirmed cases is about 2.9%.

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 was 67 reported Aug. 25.

Of the 25 deaths MSDH reported Wednesday, nine occurred between Oct. 11 and Oct. 13 in the following counties:

County Deaths reported Wednesday
DeSoto 1
Jackson 1
Lamar 1
Lauderdale 1
Lincoln 1
Panola 1
Rankin 2
Washington 1

Sixteen COVID-19 related deaths occurred between July 28 and Oct. 8 and were identified from death certificate reports.

County Deaths identified from death certificate reports
Amite 1
Clay 1
Coahoma 1
DeSoto 1
Grenada 1
Hinds 1
Leflore 1
Lowndes 1
Marshall 1
Oktibbeha 1
Pearl River 1
Pontotoc 1
Smith 1
Tallahatchie 1
Warren 1
Washington 1

New cases and deaths were reported to MSDH as of 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 13. 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 rose steadily with the rise of new cases in July and August. On June 6, the number of Mississippians hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 was at 358. Hospitalizations nearly tripled by late July. They leveled off in early August and began noticeably dropping in the middle of the month including critical cases and numbers of people requiring ventilators. Hospitalizations continued to drop in September but levelled off at the middle of the month. They continued to drop through Oct. 3; however, hospitalizations have been showing a definite rise since then.

The number of Mississippians hospitalized for the virus as of 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 12, is 600, about half of the late July peak of more than 1,200. The number includes 507 with confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 93 people with suspected but unconfirmed cases. Of those with confirmed infections, 145 were critically ill and in intensive care units and 69 were on ventilators.

Source: MSDH

MSDH has estimated the number of people who can be presumed recovered from COVID-19 in Mississippi. That number is 94,165 through Sunday, Oct. 11. This figure is updated weekly. It represents about 88.2% of the cumulative 106,817 cases reported Wednesday, Oct. 14.

The number of cases in Warren County three weeks ago, Wednesday, Sept. 23, was 1,384, therefore the estimated number of people presumed recovered in the county is 1,330, or about 89.8% of the 1,481 cumulative cases reported as of Wednesday, Oct. 14. The county has an estimated 97 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 Sunday, Oct. 3 (the latest date available from MSDH), is 863,957 or about 29% of the state’s 2.976 million residents. The positivity rate (positive results to tests, seven-day average) was 6.3% Sunday according to Johns Hopkins University. The national rate is 5.1%, and 5% or lower indicates adequate testing.

The total number of outbreaks in long-term care facilities is 127 Wednesday. About 40.4%, or 1,269, of the state’s total deaths were people in long-term care facilities.

A total of 25 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 here. The latest data available is for the week ending Sept. 27.

For additional information, visit the MSDH website.

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Six new COVID-19 cases Tuesday in Warren County; 713 statewide

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New COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to climb in Mississippi as they have been doing for more than 10 days.

“I do think we are on the front end of something that could be bad,” said State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs in a Zoom meeting Monday. “The last time we saw that was before the summer surge,” Dobbs added. “That doesn’t mean we can’t turn that around. It’s not that hard. We just have to have a little bit of patience.”

The Mississippi State Department of Health reported six new COVID-19 cases Tuesday in Warren County and no new deaths. The cumulative number of cases in Warren County to date is 1,476, and the county’s death toll is 53.

Statewide, MSDH reported 713 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, bringing the total cumulative confirmed cases in Mississippi to 105,941. The seven-day average of new cases is 609, higher by 183 cases from a month ago.

Most new cases are seen in younger people recently, and they are more likely to survive the virus than those 65 and older. By far, the age group reporting the most cases in Mississippi are young people from 18 to 29 years old.

MSDH reported Tuesday that 14 additional Mississippians died of COVID-19 statewide. The cumulative number of deaths in the state is 3,115. The state’s rate of deaths to confirmed cases is about 2.9%.

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 was 67 reported Aug. 25.

MSDH reported Tuesday that 13 deaths occurred in the following counties:

County Deaths reported Tuesday
Amite 2
Hancock 1
Harrison 1
Lee 1
Lowndes 1
Marshall 1
Monroe 1
Rankin 1
Tishomingo 1
Washington 3

One COVID-19 related death occurred Sept. 25 in Adams County and was identified from a death certificate report.

New cases and deaths were reported to MSDH as of 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 12. 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 rose steadily with the rise of new cases in July and August. On June 6, the number of Mississippians hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 was at 358. Hospitalizations nearly tripled by late July. They leveled off in early August and began noticeably dropping in the middle of the month including critical cases and numbers of people requiring ventilators. Hospitalizations continued to drop in September but levelled off at the middle of the month. They continued to drop through Oct. 3; however, hospitalizations have been showing a definite rise since then.

The number of Mississippians hospitalized for the virus as of 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 12, is 600, about half of the late July peak of more than 1,200. The number includes 507 with confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 93 people with suspected but unconfirmed cases. Of those with confirmed infections, 145 were critically ill and in intensive care units and 69 were on ventilators.

Source: MSDH

MSDH has estimated the number of people who can be presumed recovered from COVID-19 in Mississippi. That number is 94,165 through Sunday, Oct. 11. This figure is updated weekly. It represents about 89% of the cumulative 105,941 cases reported Tuesday, Oct. 13.

The number of cases in Warren County three weeks ago, Tuesday, Sept. 22, was 1,382, therefore the estimated number of people presumed recovered in the county is 1,329, or about 90% of the 1,476 cumulative cases reported as of Tuesday, Oct. 11. The county has an estimated 87 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 Sunday, Oct. 3, is 863,957 or about 29% of the state’s 2.976 million residents. The positivity rate (positive results to tests, seven-day average) was 6.3% Sunday according to Johns Hopkins University. The national rate is 5%, and 5% or lower indicates adequate testing.

The total number of outbreaks in long-term care facilities is 128 Tuesday. About 40.6%, or 1,265, of the state’s total deaths were people in long-term care facilities.

A total of 25 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 here. The latest data available is for the week ending Sept. 27.

For additional information, visit the MSDH website.

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Mississippi’s seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases remains over 600 Monday

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Sunday and Monday saw the expected weekend drop in reported new COVID-19 cases and deaths. Mississippi’s seven-day average remains above 600.

The Mississippi State Department of Health reported three new COVID-19 cases Sunday in Warren County and no new cases Monday. No new deaths were reported either day. The cumulative number of cases in Warren County to date is 1,470, and the county’s death toll is 53.

Statewide, MSDH reported 294 new COVID-19 cases Sunday and 296 cases Monday, bringing the total cumulative confirmed cases in Mississippi to 105,228. The seven-day average of new cases is 646, higher by 197 cases from a month ago.

Most new cases are seen in younger people recently, and they are more likely to survive the virus than those 65 and older. By far, the age group reporting the most cases in Mississippi are young people from 18 to 29 years old.

MSDH reported Sunday that five additional Mississippians died of COVID-19 statewide. No new deaths were reported Monday. The cumulative number of deaths in the state is 3,101. The state’s rate of deaths to confirmed cases is about 3%.

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 was 67 reported Aug. 25.

MSDH reported Sunday that five deaths occurred between Oct. 5 and Oct. 10 in the following counties:

County Deaths reported Sunday
Lafayette 1
Leflore 1
Marion 1
Montgomery 1
Tate 1

New cases and deaths were reported to MSDH as of 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 10, and Sunday, Oct. 11. 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 rose steadily with the rise of new cases in July and August. On June 6, the number of Mississippians hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 was at 358. Hospitalizations nearly tripled by late July. They leveled off in early August and began noticeably dropping in the middle of the month including critical cases and numbers of people requiring ventilators. Hospitalizations continued to drop in September but levelled off at the middle of the month. They continued to drop through Oct. 3; however, they began showing a definite rise last week.

The number of Mississippians hospitalized for the virus as of 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 9, is 600, about half of the late July peak of more than 1,200. The number includes 491 with confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 109 people with suspected but unconfirmed cases. Of those with confirmed infections, 136 were critically ill and in intensive care units and 59 were on ventilators.

Source: MSDH

MSDH has estimated the number of people who can be presumed recovered from COVID-19 in Mississippi. That number is 90,577 through Sunday, Oct. 4. This figure is updated weekly. It represents about 86% of the cumulative 105,228 cases reported Monday, Oct. 11.

The number of cases in Warren County three weeks ago, Monday, Sept. 21, was 1,381, therefore the estimated number of people presumed recovered in the county is 1,328, or about 90.3% of the 1,470 cumulative cases reported as of Monday, Oct. 11. The county has an estimated 89 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 Sunday, Oct. 3, is 863,957 or about 29% of the state’s 2.976 million residents. The positivity rate (positive results to tests, seven-day average) was 6.3% Sunday according to Johns Hopkins University. The national rate is 5%, and 5% or lower indicates adequate testing.

The total number of outbreaks in long-term care facilities is 126 Monday. About 40.1%, or 1,258, of the state’s total deaths were people in long-term care facilities.

A total of 25 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 here. The latest data available is for the week ending Sept. 27.

For additional information, visit the MSDH website.

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