An average of 162 Mississippians were hospitalized every day last week with COVID-19, an all-time record and evidence that the worst of the crisis is still with us. Currently, hospital transfers are being carefully managed statewide, protecting an extremely fragile system. Photo courtesy UMMC Communications
The new year dawns on a Mississippi in deep crisis, last week breaking many key COVID-19 records as the situation continues to deteriorate in the state’s hospitals. State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs warned on Twitter of another record in new hospitalizations. An average of 162 Mississippians were hospitalized for COVID-19 every day last week; the now-dwarfed summer peak’s highest weekly rate was 114.
The Mississippi State Department of Health announced 1,616 new cases of COVID-19 today, following 1,784 yesterday. The weekend total of 3,400 follows a week with both the highest single-day reports of cases and highest single-day reports of deaths, evidence that the post-holidays surge is showing no signs of slowing down.
Currently, Mississippi is operating under MSDH’s COVID-19 System of Care guidelines. As the public-health agency explained on Dec. 20, “Mississippi has reached a point where hospitals can no longer accommodate acute clinical demands.”
While the COVID-19 system-of-care orders are in effect, Mississippi has a central authority for hospital transfers for critical care: Mississippi Med-Com, located at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
Marc Rolph, executive director of communications at UMMC, explained to the Jackson Free Press in an interview that the command center is managing critical-care transfers on a rotational basis, slowly working its way through the state’s facilities equipped with intensive-care units to maximize the limited space available.
For UMMC, that means fewer transfers than in previous spikes—a necessity as the hospital simply has no more room. “We’ve been in the same realm for hospitalizations for the last month,” Rolph said.
Typically, hospitals seeking a transfer to a higher setting of care will contact other institutions directly. That has become nearly impossible in a winter of unmitigated viral spread and skyrocketing hospitalizations, necessitating a central management system.
Just as Dr. Dobbs warned the Jackson Free Press in June, the rationing on transfers applies to all ICU patients statewide, not just those infected with COVID-19.
Mississippi’s vaccination drive continues for the highest tier of recipients: health-care personnel. A schedule for the next population to receive the vaccine, frontline essential workers and individuals over the age of 75 is still to come.
Read the JFP’s coverage of COVID-19 at jacksonfreepress.com/covid19. Get more details on preventive measures here. Email state reporter Nick Judin at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @nickjudin.