‘A whole lot of needless pain and suffering’ before Delta virus surge ends, state epidemiologist says

Published 12:45 pm Thursday, August 5, 2021

Buckle up, Mississippi, the rapid surge in COVID-19 coronavirus cases is about to get worse, three of the people leading the state’s effort in fighting the pandemic said Thursday.

Mississippi reported growing numbers of new cases again Thursday — the third-highest number in a 24-hour period since the pandemic began — and a growing number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19.

“It’s dire,” Mississippi State Department of Health epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said. “We’re not seeing a slow down in the number of cases. We’re not seeing a slow down in hospitalizations.

“There’s going to be a whole lot of needless pain and suffering before we get on the other side of this current surge,” he said. “We’re just in for a tough road right now for the next couple of weeks.”

“Even if you’re vaccinated, please be safe,” Byers said. “We have covid top to bottom in every single county in the state.”

After reporting 3,164 new cases Thursday, Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said some of those cases will soon turn into patients needing hospitalization and the state’s hospital system is close to being maxed out.

Dobbs said 1,147 COVID-19 positive patients were filling Mississippi hospitals with 299 of those patients in ICU rooms. The number hospitalized is fast approaching January’s peak of 1,444.

The rising case numbers are caused by a much more contagious Delta variant of the virus, a high number of unvaccinated Mississippians and a relaxation of protective measures.

“It’s sweeping over Mississippi like a tsunami,” Dobbs said Thursday.

One of the biggest concerns among the leaders at the Mississippi State Department of Health is the rapidly increasing number of hospitalizations.

Yesterday state hospitals were, on average, admitting patients at a rate of more than seven per hour.

“We are seeing some enormous pressure on the hospital system,” said Dr. Jim Craig, the director of health protection at MSDH. “A lot of hospitals are at capacity.

“Between staffing needs and the increased cases, we are seeing this pressure throughout the state.”

Craig said it’s important to remember that the pandemic has been going on for 516 days and thus many health care workers are simply getting fatigued. Some are getting burned out and leaving the profession altogether, he said.

“The current problem is staffing,” Craig said. “There are not enough resources to staff those beds. It’s bad. It’s real bad for our health care system. We’re not at the worst of it yet. It’s still getting worse every day in Mississippi right now.”

Dobbs agreed with Craid and said people need to realize the virus has changed since the early days of the pandemic last year.

“Delta is deadly. Delta is different and it’s going to cause a lot of tragedy that didn’t have to happen like this,” he said.