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‘Be Ready’: Only 50 ICU Beds Left in Mississippi As Capacity Falls to Record 7% Low

Kelly Jones prepares oxygen for a COVID-19 patient
Kelly Jones, a supervisor and registered respiratory therapist at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, prepares oxygen for a COVID-19 patient in the medical intensive care unit this past July. Photo courtesy UMMC

Only 50 ICU beds remain available in the entire state of Mississippi as hospitals continue to admit new waves of COVID-19 patients daily.

Of the 890 intensive care beds in the state, 850 were occupied today, an increase of 35 overnight, the Mississippi State Department of Health reported this evening.

“Be ready. January will be rough,” Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said in a tweet this evening, attaching charts to illustrate the dire situation. “We can mitigate if we restrain our holiday events, but likely to be extremely difficult regardless.”

Many hospitals across the state have already maxed out their ICU capacity, though. The University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson had no critical-care beds left today, but reported that 19 patients were waiting for one. The hospital also reported just 19 general, non-ICU staffed beds remaining. 

In DeSoto County, where local officials have downplayed the pandemic and refused to enforce public-health orders such as the governor’s county-level mask mandate, Baptist Memorial Hospital reported that it has no ICU beds or regular staffed beds remaining today.

In Hattiesburg, Forrest General Hospital only had two of its 48 ICU beds remaining.

Of all current ICU patients, more than a third are COVID-19 patients. The 350 ICU patients with COVID-19 represents a new watermark, surpassing the 339 ICU patients with the virus during the summer wave. The current situation is far more serious, though, health officials say, because the numbers of non-COVID-19 patients is significantly higher than it was then, increasing the strain on hospital resources.

In total, 1,252 patients are now hospitalized for COVID-19. Fewer than 1,500 regular staffed hospital beds remain available statewide.

Health-care workers began receiving their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine this week. Nursing-home residents will begin receiving vaccines next. MSDH is now reporting COVID-19 outbreaks in 74% of the state’s nursing homes.

Dr. Dobbs told the Mississippi Free Press earlier this week that it will likely be spring before vaccines are widely available to Mississippians who are not elderly and do not have known COVID-19 vulnerabilities.

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