MSDH confirms record-high 79 deaths, provides vaccine update

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The Mississippi State Department of Health’s latest report includes a record-high 79 COVID-19-related deaths. 

The latest report also includes 2,191 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the state’s total up to 197,691. With the confirmation of the record number of deaths, 4,490 Mississippians have now passed away from the virus. 

*MSDH Note: 23 COVID-19 related deaths occurred between November 20 and December 16, identified from death certificate reports.

During a press conference this morning, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs and State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers outlined the severity of the situation as deaths rise. 

“These are people who didn’t have to die and that if we did a little bit better, if we collectively were more thoughtful about making sure we didn’t spread COVID, these folks would be alive,” Dr. Dobbs said.

With overall hospitalizations remaining above 1,200 and over 300 Mississippians in the ICU, Dr. Dobbs explained the current state of Mississippi’s healthcare system. 

“The healthcare system is overwhelmed now. We have ERs that can’t be ERs, so people don’t have access to emergency room care because they’re full of COVID patients. We have ICU beds across the state that have two persons in a bed that’s made for one person. These are things that are happening now…We have made the warnings. It’s abundantly clear, the health system is an exhaustible resource and we’ve essentially exhausted it,” he said.

Dr. Dobbs went on to state that they’ve had conversations with hospitals regarding the activation of ‘crisis standards of care’ — changing staffing ratios, triaged access to services, etc. 

On the vaccine front, Mississippi has received about 12,600 doses of the Pfizer vaccine that have been sent to hospitals across the state for healthcare workers. While that number is less than the 25,000 figure floated by the MSDH last week, those remaining doses will be distributed to long-term care facilities through a partnership with CVS and Walgreens. The arrival of 50,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine will aid in the effort to immunize frontline healthcare workers in the initial phase of the state’s distribution plan. 

As for the new strain of the virus that is making waves in Europe, Dr. Dobbs said that the MSDH is watching it closely, but it does not appear that it is any more severe than the dominant strain seen here in the US. He added that the vaccine seems to be effective against the mutation. 

The MSDH will soon issue detailed guidance for how to most safely celebrate this Christmas but they continue to urge you to keep your gatherings small and local with your nuclear family. Dr. Dobbs specifically mentioned the risk of large, in-person church services and encouraged virtual services this holiday season. 

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