State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs called COVID-19 prevention noncompliance “absolutely maddening,” at Thursday’s press briefing. Dobbs’ repeated calls for adherence to social guidelines seem to be falling on the deaf ears of a public sick of being alone. Photo courtesy State of Mississippi
Mississippians are not doing enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs warned at yesterday’s press event. Dobbs acknowledged the concerns of Dr. Bhagyashri Navalkele, University of Mississippi medical director of infection prevention and control, that even the current level of hospital usage spelled impending disaster for Mississippi if it continues into the fall.
“The scenario is very possible that someone has a heart attack, and they’re gonna show up at a hospital, and there’s not gonna be a ventilator, because they’re all taken,” Dobbs said with audible tension bubbling in his tone. “This is now. This is the summer. This is the slow time.”
“There’s no way to prepare for a tidal wave of cases,” Dobbs admitted.
Dobbs blamed today’s COVID-19 realities on noncompliance with social-distancing rules. “The summer's been worse than we had anticipated, in large measure because the anticipated adherence with social distancing has been overwhelmingly disappointing,” Dobbs said. This week’s chief offenders in the callous spread of the disease to his mind: Ole Miss fraternities.
Oxford has seen a large COVID-19 outbreak this week, suspected to be spreading among summer fraternity rush parties, which Dobbs suggests are hosting an illegally large number of attendees.
The state health officer was visibly frustrated with the lack of adherence to distancing guidelines. “My head is sore from banging it on the wall,” he said. “Wear masks, social distance. Don't do mass gatherings and certainly follow the rules. You don't want to see me with a bruise up here next time.”
Most new confirmed cases in Oxford are in people between 18 and 24 years of age. Dobbs pleaded with the public to take necessary precautions so that young people do not transfer COVID-19 to their parents and to their grandparents, risking more severe illness and death along the way.
“The things that we can do to prevent transmission are so very easy,” he said. “I kid you not, if we could just do those things, a lot of the predictions are that coronavirus would just wither away, but we just don't have the patience unfortunately to do the easiest things.”
COVID-19 is on the rise over the summer. A sudden, sharp uptick in emergency room visits for respiratory ailments, which the Jackson Free Press previously reported, may be the canary in the coalmine for an impending surge in cases. “For the first time since we really started looking at this from the coronavirus outbreak, we're seeing a significant upturn, and that's usually a pretty worrisome indicator,” said Dobbs.
On Wednesday, the Mississippi State Department of Health reported 489 new cases of COVID-19 from end of day Tuesday, setting yet another record of single-day case increases. Wednesday’s tally included 23 deaths, with 16 of them coming from earlier reports. Long-term-care facility outbreaks stood at 73. More recent data have not yet been forthcoming due to “data validation issues,” Dobbs said Thursday.
At Thursday’s presser, Dobbs said there were 381 new cases and five additional deaths on Wednesday, but qualified the numbers as preliminary. He confirmed those numbers on Twitter today, while apologizing for yet another delay in case reports due to the problems with the agency’s “legacy system.”
Dobbs reported “significant stress” on the state’s health-care system. “I'm increasingly getting notified from doctors across the state that they're not able to get patients to care within their hospital,” he said. Hospital usage now stands at 483 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, 159 of which are in intensive care units, with 100 patients on ventilators.
Read the JFP’s coverage of COVID-19 at jacksonfreepress.com/covid19. Get more details on preventive measures here. Email state intern Julian Mills at [email protected].