Dobbs: ‘Rough few weeks’ ahead in COVID-19 fight

Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 1:57 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said Mississippi has a “rough few weeks” ahead when it comes to the fight against COVID-19.

Dobbs and other state health officials discussed the rising number of infections and hospitalization rates during what is now being called the fourth wave of COVID infections.

“It’s bad right now,” he said. “We’re in the middle, if not the start, of the fourth wave. We want to bring as many people to the other side as we can.”

Dobbs said there are currently 13 hospitals in the state that no longer have intensive care units. Meanwhile, he expects deaths to definitely go up in the coming weeks as more and more people come down with the infection.

“We are getting to the point to where we have to fly patients from the Delta to the Pine Belt to get access to care because there’s not that much access to it right now,” he said.

According to Mississippi State Department of Health numbers, 573 new cases were reported, as well as nine new deaths and 47 outbreaks at long-term care facilities.

“When we went through the spring, May going into June, we were doing reasonably well. We were seeing primarily the Alpha variant,” Dobbs explained. “The Delta variant has taken over all the transmission in the state of Mississippi. It’s far more contagious, even more than the Alpha variant.”

He and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Daniel Edney urged people to get vaccinated and those who are 65 and older or who are immuno-compromised to talk to their doctor about getting a booster, adding that the MSDH is talking to doctors to make booster doses available at county health departments.

“Ninety-three percent of the cases in the last month have been (among the) unvaccinated,” he said. “Eighty-nine percent of deaths have been unvaccinated.”

The other 11 percent of deaths occurred among those who had been vaccinated but were 65 or older.

“That’s why we’re focused on doing additional protection for those 65 and older,” Dobbs said. “It’s going to take less exposure, less time, and less opportunity for superspreader events.”

Through July 20, 2,101,123 vaccine doses have been distributed; 1,143,621 people have received at least one dose; and, 1,014,078 have received both doses, according to MSDH numbers.

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Lackey Memorial Hospital in Forest has seen the uptick and they’re hoping the treatments that are now available will keep the number in the hospital down.

“Probably 3/4 if what we’re testing is positive now,” said Lackey Memorial Hospital Administrator Sydney Sawyer. “It’s kind of deja vu. We’re doing a lot of outpatient antibodies right now. Probably at the same level that we were back in February or March.”

Dobbs says the Delta variant essentially doubles the risk of transmission. He says it takes less time and less exposure to catch compared to the original strain.

“We might see two or three transmission cycles within a small group or family,” he explained. “Now, we’re finding extensive webs. We find a case and we can link it to multiple families or multiple exposures because it’s that much more contagious and it’s a lot easier to sort of track it down in these massive outbreaks.”

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