Mississippi approaches its own COVID hospitalization record
By EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi is approaching its record number of COVID-19 hospitalizations as the virus continues spreading rapidly in a state with one of the lowest vaccination rates in the U.S.
The state Health Department reported Tuesday that 1,410 patients with confirmed cases of COVID-19 were in Mississippi hospitals Monday. Cases and hospitalizations have risen sharply in recent weeks because of the highly contagious delta variant of the virus.
Mississippi’s highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations for a single day was 1,444 on Jan. 4, before vaccines against the virus were widely available.
The state health officer and other physicians have been imploring people to get vaccinated. Other well-known people with Mississippi connections are joining the push.
Archie Manning, who was a Ole Miss quarterback in the late 1960s and early 1970s before playing for the New Orleans Saints, recorded a short video for Delta Health Alliance. The nonprofit group works in some of Mississippi’s poorest counties, including the rural Delta flatlands where Manning grew up.
“We know the vaccine works, but only if you get it,” Manning said in the video the group posted Monday on Twitter. “It’s easy and it works. Please get vaccinated, my friends, and stay healthy.”
As of Tuesday, the state Health Department said 35% of Mississippi residents were fully vaccinated, compared to about 50% nationally.
The Health Department said that between July 13 and Monday, unvaccinated people made up 97% of those newly diagnosed with COVID-19, 89% of those hospitalized with it and 85% of those who died from it.
A growing number of Mississippi school districts are going from mask-optional to mask-mandatory, even while facing pushback from some parents and students who see masks as an infringement on freedom. In politically conservative suburbs outside Jackson, the Rankin County School District said it is requiring masks from Tuesday until at least Aug. 25.
“While we know this will not be a popular decision, please understand the difficulty of the situation,” the Rankin County district said in a statement. “We must base this decision on keeping our students and employees safe and keeping the schools open. Also, by keeping the schools open, parents/guardians are able to continue working and the economy can thrive which is a concern for all of us.”
The state Health Department on Tuesday reported 3,488 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Mississippi. The department has reported 368,549 cases of COVID-19 and 7,685 coronavirus-related deaths in the state since the pandemic started.
The state health officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs said Monday that the intensive care units were full in all 35 of the Level 1, 2 and 3 hospitals in the state’s acute care systems. Those include the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson; North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo; Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg; Memorial Hospital at Gulfport and Singing River Health System in Pascagoula.