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Local hospitals hopeful, still feel strain as statewide COVID cases decrease

Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 7:23 PM CDT
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PINE BELT, Miss. (WDAM) - COVID-19 case numbers are on the decline following the latest report from the Mississippi State Department of Health.

MSDH still reported 1,557 new cases on Sept. 21.

COVID-19 is keeping doctors, nurses and staff busy at South Central Regional Medical Center in Laurel.

“What we’ve seen here at South Central and talking to my friends around the region and around the state, that everybody is seeing an improvement. We’ve unfortunately become acclimated to working well beyond normal capacity. So the good news is it’s better. The bad news is it’s still very high,” says Dr. W. Mark Horne.

It’s the same story at Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg.

“We have seen a gradual, slow decline in COVID cases, certainly in the new cases that are coming on. We are by no means out of the woods. We become kind of numb to the fact that that we have so many cases,” says Dr. Steven Farrell.

Both doctors agree that they are hopeful about the declining COVID-19 cases across the state.

“I think most of us are optimistic that this trend will continue and that we will continue to see improvements. However, I want to caution people that that’s no reason to start doing things that are a greater risk,” explains Horne.

Horne says people should still be avoiding large groups of people or wearing a mask when they cannot social distance themselves. He says vaccination rates are playing a large role in the good news.

At Forrest General, Farrell says the staff is still relying on nurses from FEMA and MEMA for help.

“We’ve been given some nurses and respiratory therapists techs and even physicians to use from FEMA and MEMA. It has been very gracious for them to help us out, those have proven to be very helpful. Still, it doesn’t get us completely out of the woods, but it definitely helps our staff deal with the burden of care here. It hasn’t stopped,” Farrell explains.

Farrell says this downward trend is promising for now, but compared to the numbers before the delta variant outbreak, he still feels overwhelmed.

“You know when, just earlier this year, when we’re down to less than 10 cases in the hospital, and within a matter of a few weeks, we were up well into the 130s. We’re down to around 50 cases now in the hospital, about a third of those in the intensive care unit and about half of our intensive care unit patients with COVID are on the ventilator,” Farrell says.

Horne agrees.

“If you would have asked us about these current numbers in March of last year, we would have said ‘Oh my goodness that’s so much,’” Horne explains.

Horne says part of the reason the medical community is so hopeful is because of the vaccine and monoclonal antibody treatment.

Elective surgeries are being done at Forrest General Hospital and South Central Regional Medical Center, but that doesn’t mean everything is completely back to normal.

“We still are not back to full-time elective and voluntary surgeries. Our bed availability can’t accommodate what our customers need,” admits Farrell.

“COVID cases are still impacting our total capacity, but we have already begun to resume close to normal activities for elective surgeries,” explains Horne.

Both doctors encourage people to take advantage of the vaccine and monoclonal antibodies to continue the fight against COVID-19.

You can see more reports from MSDH and find where to get vaccinated here.

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