Dobbs: Mississippi health care workers ‘wore out’ as medical community battles ‘social media monster’ of COVID disinformation

Published 5:09 pm Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Mississippi’s healthcare workers are bracing for what they believe will be the pending surge of new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations while also battling a “social media monster” the state’s top public health doctor said Wednesday.

Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said Wednesday that the state’s residents should be prepared for the impact of the rapidly spreading COVID-19 coronavirus cases.

“Be prepared and be patient because it’s going to be a rough few weeks,” he said referencing rapidly growing cases and hospitalizations that are quickly filling up the state’s hospitals. “In many ways, we have just absolutely wore out our health care workers.”

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But Dobbs said those same health care workers are getting ready to “stand up again” to face the fourth wave of the COVID-19 cases in Mississippi.

The Mississippi State Department of Health’s Director of Health Protection Dr. Jim Craig said Wednesday that 28 hospitals across the state had reported having no ICU beds available.

Total hospitalizations from COVID-19 have increased nearly five-fold in the last three weeks, state data show, with approximately 700 people currently hospitalized.

“This is as bad as what we saw in January,” Craig said. “It’s very alarming. We’re seeing a lot of stress on the healthcare system because of the Delta variant.”

Dobbs urged people who have not been vaccinated to talk to their doctors to resolve any questions they may have and get vaccinated.

Dobbs acknowledged that public health officials were fighting an uphill battle with online misinformation. Earlier this month the Mississippi State Department of Health removed the ability for the public to make comments on some COVID-19 related social media posts because the state office lacked the staff to monitor and remove false comments and statements.

“We’re fighting a social media monster that’s been fed just an endless amount of misinformation,” Dobbs said.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said the numbers of cases in recent weeks are growing rapidly.

Since July 1, the state has reported 18,190 cases, which is more than 5 percent of all cases since March 2020, when the pandemic began.

“It’s a pretty astounding increase at the moment,” Byers said Wednesday. “And we’re really not seeing it level off at the moment.”

Of those cases, Byers said the state is tracking more than 100 outbreaks in long-term care facilities, with more than three-quarters of those facilities being nursing homes. He said the primary driver of outbreaks in nursing homes is coming from unvaccinated staff.

“We’re seeing outbreaks everywhere. Anywhere unvaccinated individuals are getting in a group setting,” Byers said.

Dobbs said the chart of new cases shows how rapid the new Delta variant is spreading.

“It’s not a slope; it’s a cliff,” he said.