Mississippians will ‘absolutely’ die due to lack of care as state hospitals swamped with unvaccinated COVID patients

Published 10:51 pm Friday, August 6, 2021

Mississippi’s top public health official warned Friday that people will “absolutely” die needlessly because state hospitals are becoming crammed with unvaccinated COVID-19 patients.

Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs was speaking with officials with the Mississippi State Medical Association (MSMA) Friday when he was asked about the impact of growing strain on the state’s health care system.

“We’re already at crisis care,” he said. “We’re having to do things that we would definitely do under normal times. And it’s only going to get worse.

“Are people going to die because they cannot access care? Absolutely,” he said.

Dobbs and state health care leaders have been begging Mississippians to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 coronavirus for months. Now a combination of a low vaccination rate and a much more rapidly spreading delta variant of the virus is spreading like wildfire across the state, putting great strain on the state’s hospital systems.

The large numbers of unvaccinated residents make Mississippi’s population easy targets for the virus to spread.

“We have a lot of fuel for the COVID fire to keep spreading aggressively,” he said.

Late last month the Mississippi State Health Department issued an order to force hospitals to delay elective surgeries that will require overnight stays in an effort to save hospital resources and staff.

“We’ve got to do what we can right now to keep the health care system going so we can get past this,” said Mississippi State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said in the Q&A with the MSMA leadership team. “We certainly have our hands full with delta.”

Mississippi’s hospitalization rates have increased more than fivefold in just more than a month and new case averages are piling up quickly meaning it’s likely that the hospital situation will get worse soon, Dobbs said, adding that the health care system is a resource just like any other.

“It’s just like toilet paper,” Dobbs said. “You can run out. … You can overwhelm structures that exist by tapping out resources.”