Mississippi reports highest COVID rate since the pandemic began

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi reported its largest single-day total of new COVID-19 cases Thursday, far exceeding a record set only two days earlier and indicating more challenges in coming days for already-strained hospitals.

The state Health Department reported 4,412 new cases of the virus Thursday, a 26% increase over the 3,488 cases it reported in the state Tuesday. The numbers Wednesday also exceeded 3,000.

Dr. Alan Jones, associate vice chancellor for clinical affairs at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, said the rapid increase in new cases is putting stress on the state hospital system, with few intensive care unit beds available in Mississippi.

“If we continue that trajectory, within the next five to seven to 10 says, I think we’re going to see failure of the hospital system in Mississippi,” Jones said during a news conference Wednesday. “Hospitals are full from Memphis to Gulfport, Natchez to Meridian.”

Officials announced Wednesday that Mississippi will open a 50-bed temporary field hospital and the federal government will send medical professionals to help treat patients as COVID-19 cases continue surging in a state with one of the lowest vaccination rates in the U.S.

The field hospital — on reserve for disasters — will be in a parking garage at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, and it could be open by Friday.

COVID-19 cases in Mississippi have risen sharply in recent weeks because of the highly contagious delta variant of the virus, and public health officials are imploring people to get vaccinated.

The state Health Department said 36% of Mississippi residents are fully vaccinated, compared to about 50% nationally. It also said that between July 13 and Wednesday in Mississippi, unvaccinated people made up 98% of those newly diagnosed with COVID-19, 90% of those hospitalized with it and 84% of those who died from it.

Mississippi has just under 3 million residents. The state Health Department has reported 376,124 cases of COVID-19 and 7,730 coronavirus-related deaths in the state since the pandemic started.

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