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‘A Raging Wildfire’: Mississippi Now Top Global Hotspot For COVID-19 Spread

Alan Jones speaking at a presser
Mississippi has once again added more cases in one day than any other in the pandemic, now leading the world in rampant transmission of the virus. In response, the University of Mississippi Medical Center has moved up its timeline to ensure its entire workforce is vaccinated. Courtesy UMMC

Mississippi has once again broken its record for single-day reports of COVID-19. The Mississippi State Department of Health announced 5,048 new cases of COVID-19 today, just above last Friday’s 5,023. Mississippi is now the global hotspot for new cases of COVID-19 per capita, standing above any other U.S. state or, treated as a country, above any other nation on the planet.

Although new cases are still higher than ever before, deaths have begun to catch up with the delta wave, an outcome that public-health leaders have repeatedly warned is inevitable, following mass transmission. MSDH reported 54 new deaths today, with 32 coming from the past week and 22 from earlier weeks.

Delta-wave hospitalizations have pushed the state’s hospitals past the brink. MSDH’s report from Aug. 18 has 1,660 individuals with COVID-19 crowding the state’s hospitals. Unheard-of numbers fill the state’s intensive-care units, and many of the 324 individuals last reported on ventilators are unlikely to survive the coming weeks.

Across Mississippi, doctors and nurses in intensive-care units and emergency rooms buckle under the stress of the onslaught. Mississippi Med-Com continues to manage the diversion of patients from full hospitals to what new slots become available each morning.

At the University of Mississippi Medical Center, administration has put its foot down on the impending deadline for all of its employees to provide proof of vaccination. In an email sent to all employees this morning, Dr. Alan Jones, associate vice chancellor for clinical affairs, reiterated the warning that Mississippi was now the worldwide epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Hospital systems in Mississippi are being supported by federal, private and volunteer assets just to prevent collapse … and because of the ferocious virility of the Delta variant, pediatric cases of COVID-19 are significantly higher than previous surges in our state,” Jones wrote. “With school having only been in session for a couple of weeks now, that number is very likely to continue to rise.”

With that, UMMC’s deadline for full vaccination has been meaningfully altered. Managers and supervisors now have until Sept. 15 to provide proof of vaccination—all other employees have until Oct. 1. Students and other individuals, such as contractors, have until Nov. 1. No alternative is available to this policy, neither masking nor testing, save for a highly limited accommodation process for those who cannot receive the vaccine. Other individuals must be vaccinated if they wish to access the UMMC campus.

“COVID-19 in Mississippi is a raging wildfire, but not everyone is helping throw water on the flames in their own backyard,” Jones wrote. “We—as an institution and as the workforce for the state’s leading health system—need to be a leader in this fight.”

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