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'We are emotionally spent' | MS Department of Health leaders plead for vaccination, other measures amidst latest COVID surge

As COVID cases among children grow as the school year begins, available resources in hospitals are again a concern.

JACKSON, Mississippi — Tuesday, those with the Mississippi Department of Health offered dire warnings with COVID-19 hospitalizations recently setting record highs, dwindling available ICU beds, and rising cases among those 17 and younger across the Magnolia State.

"It's been exhausting. I think we are all emotionally spent," Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said. "I personally feel like I'm an air traffic controller and every day I'm watching two airliners collide. It is distressing to see what's going on and know that nearly all these deaths are preventable."

This week saw a record high of 388 patients in the ICU and 249 on ventilators across Mississippi.

Those at MSDH said the 2,689 COVID hospitalizations recently surpassed the previous record of 2,432 during the winter surge, with daily admissions continuing to climb. 

Dr. Dobbs said previous trends of the data show that 1/3 of patients in an ICU and 2/3 of patients on ventilators will not make it home to their family and out of the hospital.

With staffing shortages and hospitalizations rising, MSDH took in staffing requests from the state's 73 hospitals so the federal government could fill in some of those staffing needs. 

"Hospitals are tight not only in Mississippi - they're tight in Alabama, we are tight in Tennessee, we are tight in a lot of parts of the country," Dr. Jim Craig with MSDH said. "Because COVID is a true complicator right now for ICU spaces, we are seeing strains not only in DeSoto County and in the Memphis market but also the surrounding border states."

Those between the ages of 0 and 17 make up 21.4% of COVID cases in August, compared to 14.6% in January.

On top of that, so far this month Mississippi schools districts reported 841 student cases of COVID and 347 cases among teachers and staff, making up 80 outbreaks.

More than 4,400 people have already been quarantined in the early part of the new school year and those with MSDH anticipate that is going to increase in the coming weeks.

That could lead to more children being admitted to hospitals, which would put additional strain on not only Mississippi hospitals but Le Bonheur Children's Hospital in Memphis.

"This is what we call crisis standards of care, and we have entered the realm or crisis standard of care. So don't be surprised if you are not getting what you expect. Don't be surprised if you get sick that you are going to be in a hospital 200 miles away because that's the only place that can get you. It's just going to be different and prevention is this way," Dr. Dobbs added.

There is some good news: vaccinations statewide increased from 27,171 the week of July 17 to 61,822 week of August 7.

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