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Mississippi ICUs See Decline In COVID-19, Virus Transmission Down

Registered nurses Haley Williams, left, and Abagael Mathis, center, sanitize their PPE shields after checking on a COVID-19 patient in the intensive care unit at Children's of Mississippi.
Intensive-care units across Mississippi are seeing a contraction in total usage and COVID-19 hospitalizations, declining from August peaks in which most Mississippians in ICUs were COVID patients. Photo courtesy UMMC Communications

Mississippi’s intensive-care units are finally seeing some relief from the waning delta-variant surge. With the number of new cases of COVID-19 shrinking, the state’s hospital system is stepping back from the worst period of the pandemic so far. On Monday, State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs shared data chronicling the swift decline in new cases in the state’s ICUs.

Over the course of a month, Mississippians hospitalized with COVID-19 have declined from a peak of 484 in late August to Monday’s report of 161. “COVID ICU patients (are) declining,” the state health officer said, but left a warning. “Still substantial numbers of new admissions and more personal tragedy to come.”

The Mississippi State Department of Health data reveal the extent of the hospitalization surge from the delta wave. In late August, an outright majority of ICU patients were COVID patients at Mississippi’s all-time peak of COVID-19 transmission and hospitalization.

Total ICU usage remains high, although it is down significantly from the peak of the delta wave. Source: MSDH

University of Mississippi Medical Center’s Director of Communications Marc Rolph told the Mississippi Free Press in a statement that the “positive numbers speak for themselves” and that hospital leadership hoped for a continuation of the declining trend in hospitalizations. UMMC has seen an enormous reduction in new cases of COVID-19, down from a peak of nearly 150 in late August.

As of today, that number has declined to 42 inpatient COVID-19 cases, a far cry from days in August where evangelical volunteers and federal health-care workers staffed field hospitals in concrete garages to fight an unprecedented wave of COVID hospitalizations.

But many of those hospitalizations are children. Fully 40% of UMMC’s COVID-19 patients are children under age 12 who are still ineligible for the vaccine, while manufacturers complete clinical trials in the youngest age group.

Medical experts say Mississippians must stay vigilant for several reasons, even as transmission declines. UMMC still has a high proportion of pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations. The state recently saw the death of yet another young Mississippian. Doctors also have significant concerns over the long-term complications of unrestricted spread of the virus through the state’s youth population, including a shocking increase in the diagnosis of childhood diabetes.

But transmission is declining. Today, the Mississippi State Department of Health announced 947 new cases of COVID-19. The rolling seven-day average of new cases has declined to 790, including the weekend total of 1,561, as well as last Friday’s report of 822. New case reports and averages are now dipping below four figures for the first time since the early days of the delta surge.

Transmission of COVID-19 is still occurring almost exclusively among unvaccinated Mississippians, even though a majority of Mississippians now have at least one dose of vaccine.. Between Sept. 7 and Oct. 4, 96% of all new cases were in unvaccinated or partially vaccinated Mississippians.

New vaccinations have levelled off since a spike during the height of the delta wave, but the decline in new vaccinations seems to have paused, even as new cases of COVID-19 continue to collapse. The week ending Oct. 2 saw 40,753 new vaccinations, slightly up from the previous week and still twice as high as the lowest new vaccinations totals of midsummer.

The state health agency reported 61 new COVID-19 fatalities, with 50 of those deaths identified from death certificates between late August and early September. Declining cases will continue to push declining hospitalizations, promising an eventual reprieve from the painful new death counts, but as health-agency employees continue to work through the backlog of reports from the delta wave, the total deaths will continue to rise.

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