‘Phenomenal’ number of Mississippi hospital ICU rooms consumed by COVID-19 patients

Published 4:03 pm Monday, July 20, 2020

As Mississippi recorded its highest single-day number of new coronavirus cases Monday, the state’s hospital system continued to be stressed and the capacity for caring for very sick patients continued to be tight, state health officials said.

Mississippi reported 1,251 new cases Monday, the highest daily number on record.

Mississippi also hit another record Monday with 943 patients who have tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus in state hospitals, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said Monday afternoon.

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Another 293 COVID-19 patients were in ICU beds, he said. That’s approximately double what it was just a month ago.

“That puts us looking at about 40 percent of all of our ICU cases, have coronavirus,” Dobbs said. “That’s a phenomenal number, and it continues to grow.

“Just Friday it was only 31 percent so that we’re growing so quickly really tells us we’re at the verge of pushing our system over its capacity.”

Dobbs said nine hospitals in the state have no available ICU beds. Further, Dobbs said of the four largest hospitals in the Jackson area, only a single ICU bed was available on Monday afternoon.

“Hospitals need to activate their surge plans,” Dobbs said. “Part of that is making sure that at any moment they have 10 percent of capacity available that they can accept coronavirus patients that are in urgent need of care.”

Dobbs said even with those surge plans and with some hospitals currently caring for severely ill patients in emergency rooms and other measures intended to maximize hospital space, it’s likely that the state will run out of room in one to two weeks.

“We may be at crisis standards of care within the next several weeks if we’re not careful,” he said.

That would mean a little bit different health care system including putting patients in open wards, doubling up rooms, housing people in places they don’t normally stay for medical care.

“If we don’t see a decrease in transmission, immediately, then it’s pretty likely that the healthcare system is going to be thoroughly overwhelmed,” Dobbs said.

“There’s a price for everything. There’s no free lunch. We’re paying the price for what happened the Fourth of July right now and we’re going to pay the price for what’s happening right now in three or four weeks from now.”

Gov. Tate Reeves said Monday that Mississippians must take seriously the common sense protocols to slow the virus’ spread like social distancing, wearing face masks and avoiding large groups of people.

“We’re going to have to recognize that none of us are invincible,” he said.

With the surging numbers of new cases, Dobbs said the pressure on hospitals is not likely to ease up quickly.

“We see no likely let up in that for the near future,” he said, explaining that typically the hospital usage surges two to three weeks after the initial infections. “Any interventions that take place now are going to take weeks before any benefit is noted.”

Dobbs also said despite the high number of cases, the actual number of cases is higher because some private clinics has been failing to report their rapid test results with the state.