Mississippi sets two-week coronavirus record; state health officer ‘gravely concerned’ about fall

Published 5:04 pm Thursday, June 18, 2020

Mississippi hit another record Thursday as a high number of new cases over the last 24 hours pushed the 14-day average of new COVID-19 coronavirus cases to the highest level recorded. The surge has the state’s health officer concerned about an onslaught of cases in the fall.

The state reported 381 new cases Thursday, bringing the total number of cases to 21,022. Mississippi reported 5 new deaths, bringing the total number of coronavirus deaths to 943.

The 14-day average rose to 319 cases per day. The prior record was 317, recorded on June 10. The 7-day average new case rose to 363, also a new high, but the number is skewed because the data on June 12 included two days’ worth of numbers.

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“I’m gravely concerned,” Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said Thursday. “I’m very concerned that we’re seeing an increase in COVID-like illness and pneumonia in our surveillance data.

“For the first time, since we started looking at this from the coronavirus outbreak, we’re seeing a significant upturn and that’s usually a pretty worrisome indicator,” he said.

“Coronavirus is out there,” he said. “My head is sore from banging it on the wall – wear a mask, social distance, don’t do mass gatherings and certainly follow the rules.”

Dobbs said it’s frustrating to watch the number of cases grow because of community transmission that’s coming from people not following simply social distancing guidelines like wearing masks in public and avoiding large crowds.

“I kid you not,” he said. “If we could just do those things, a lot of the predictions are that the coronavirus would just whither away. But we just don’t have the patience, unfortunately, to do the easiest things. It’s absolutely maddening.”

Dobbs said the increasing numbers are causing “significant stress” on the health system.

Through late Wednesday, Mississippi has 465 COVID-19 patients hospitalized, with 159 patients in the ICU and 100 of those were on a mechanical ventilator.

Dobbs said a recent outbreak among young people in Oxford who attended a fraternity party is likely to worsen.

“We’re already seeing parents, who got it from their kids around this Oxford situation,” he said. “And then it’s going to go to the grandparents and we’re going to have more severe illness, hospitalizations and deaths.

“We think they’re at the front end or at the mid sort of section of a significant outbreak,” Dobbs said. “we have linked some patients back, or quite a few patients back, to fraternity rush parties that are happening in the summer.

Dobbs said health officials were hopeful the virus cases would reduce during the summer, but it hasn’t.

“We are extremely concerned about going into the fall,” he said. “The summer has been worse than we anticipated in large measure because the anticipated adherence with social distancing has been overwhelmingly disappointing and that’s certainly driving community transmission.

“There’s no amount of preparation that can prepare for a tidal wave of cases,” Dobbs said. “It’s like mopping up the floor but you won’t turn the sink off. So we’ve got to turn the sink off.

“The scenario is very possible that someone is going to have a heart attack, and they’re going to show up at the hospital and there’s not going to be a ventilator because all the ventilators are taken,” Dobbs said.