Mississippi leaders ready to add pop-up ICU facilities if virus spread continues

Published 5:11 pm Monday, July 27, 2020

As intensive care units fill up at hospitals in Mississippi, state health officials are considering opening pop-up facilities to provide more beds for coronavirus patients. However, they say the quality of care at those facilities won’t be what people are used to.

“If we need sort of a mash-style hundred-bed facility, where we are putting patients, we will take the necessary steps to do that,” Gov. Tate Reeves said last week. “Keep in mind, the quality of care in those facilities is not going to be the same level as if you go to a level one facility in Mississippi today.”

On Monday, nine of Mississippi’s largest hospitals did not have any intensive care beds. At the peak of the virus, states like New York and New Jersey opened up additional facilities to house patients. Nearby, Georgia is looking to a convention center in Atlanta to house overflow patients.

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State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs said Monday numbers of hospitalizations – 961 coronavirus patients in ICUs, as of last week – were “stable” for now. He attributed much of that to a 300-patient decrease in non-coronavirus patients statewide in Mississippi hospitals in the last week.

Health officials in Mississippi said they are going to try to find open space in hospitals for additional beds before moving patients elsewhere. The challenges of opening pop-up facilities would be addressing equipment and staffing logistics, among other things.

“The best place to get care is in your local hospital, but if you can’t get that, then we’ll have to find another way that maybe is not going to be as optimal,” Dobbs said. “But we need to make sure people are getting taken care of, even if it’s not the way we would normally want to.”

The Health Department said Monday that the state had seen 653 new confirmed coronavirus cases and six deaths as of Sunday evening.

The true number of virus infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick. While most people who contract the coronavirus recover after suffering only mild to moderate symptoms, it can be deadly for older patients and those with other health problems.