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COVID-19 Will Kill 1,000 More Mississippians This Month, Top Doc Says as ‘Thanksgiving Surge’ Hits

Dr. Thomas Dobbs, masked, sitting in front of a COVID-19 chart
Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs, seen here during a summer press conference at UMMC, said he expects 1,000 more Mississippians to die this month as COVID-19 cases surge post-Thanksgiving. Photo courtesy UMMC

Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs began the Mississippi State Medical Association’s Dec. 4 COVID-19 conversation by describing a few of the Mississippians who had succumbed to the virus that day. The day’s deaths included a 72-year-old white man, a 60-year-old white woman, a 38-year-old Black woman and a 40-year-old Black man, he said.

“Each one of these is a person—a person who didn’t have to die. Someone who would have been here next Thanksgiving and next Christmas,” the state’s top public-health official said. “By and large, most of them would have made it to the next holiday season.

“And I just want to ask everybody, what would you do to save a life? What would you do to save 1,000 lives? At this rate, that’s 1,000 deaths in the month of December.”

Dr. Dobbs, along with other health leaders in the state, has repeatedly expressed disappointment that Mississippians have failed to broadly practice simple behaviors that could drastically reduce transmission, such as wearing masks and avoiding social gatherings.

The state health officer’s dire warnings contrast sharply with Gov. Tate Reeves, who has increasingly ignored, questioned, and downplayed warnings and advice from top health leaders across the state. 

The governor referred to four of the state’s most prominent physicians as “so-called experts” after they called on him to reinstate a statewide mask mandate like the one that helped the state beat back the summer wave. Reeves also downplayed concerns among medical professionals at the Mississippi Medical Center, which had nine critical patients waiting for ICU beds to become available today.

Today, Dr. Allan Jones, the UMMC vice chancellor of clinical affairs, told WAPT that the Jackson medical center is “starting to see the more at-risk populations come in, which suggests some of these higher -isk individuals did get together with people over the holidays.”

Hospitalizations have risen from 927 on Thanksgiving to 1,101 by Sunday, with 287 Mississippi patients in ICU beds, up from 233 on Thanksgiving. Before last week, the all-time high for hospitalizations was 989 on July 30.

In a tweet today, Dr. Dobbs said “the Thanksgiving surge has arrived.”

The seven-day rolling daily average for new COVID-19 cases rose from 1,410 on Thanksgiving Day to 1,931 a week afterward.

At the Dec. 4 MSMA press conference, Dobbs urged leaders to rise to the occasion as Mississippi enters the pandemic’s worst phase..

“It’s a time for leaders to lead. What would you do to save 1,000 lives? Would you make a hard decision? Even one that’s unpopular with some of your supporters?” Dr. Dobbs asked. “We have personal responsibility for the people we lead.”

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