As COVID surges, Mississippi sets up second field hospital
By LEAH WILLINGHAM
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi’s only Level 1 trauma center is setting up a second emergency field hospital in a parking garage that will handle some of the sickest COVID-19 patients as the virus continues to ravage the state.
Samaritan’s Purse will set up the mobile intensive care unit with a team of medical staff in a garage nearby Children’s of Mississippi, the state’s only pediatric hospital. Since the start of the pandemic, the Christian relief charity has set up five other emergency hospitals in areas of the world hard hit by the virus, like New York City and Los Angeles County.
“The COVID-19 situation is worsening in our state,” Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, said in a statement. Woodward is also dean of the School of Medicine.
Mississippi, one of least vaccinated states in the country, has seen numbers of new coronavirus double in the past two weeks, surpassing records for hospitalizations all previous surges of the virus since the start of the pandemic.
The state had an average of 1,475 new coronavirus cases per day on July 31 and about 3,285 new cases per day on Aug. 14, according to data from Johns Hopkins University analyzed by The Associated Press.
State officials say they have seen more children hospitalized with coronavirus than ever before. As of Friday, 18 children were hospitalized with coronavirus in Mississippi, according to data reported by hospitals to the state Department of Health. On Sunday, five children were in an intensive care unit, with four on ventilators.
Department of Health spokesperson Liz Sharlot said Monday that health officials heard this week about the death of a child between the ages of 11 and 17 of coronavirus in the state. A total of five children have died of coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.
After facing a shortage of beds and staff needed to treat patients, the University of Mississippi Medical Center set up one emergency field hospital in a different parking garage on its campus last week, with the help of the federal government.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services deployed a team of three dozen physicians, nurses and respiratory therapists.
Woodward said transport trucks arrived at the medical center Sunday afternoon to begin setting up the Samaritan’s Purse field hospital, which is expected to be ready for patients by midweek.
In the coming days, an additional tent will be set up where people who are positive for COVID-19 can receive monoclonal antibody treatment, Woodward said.
Leah Willingham is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.