Mississippi hires army of medical workers to help hospitals with COVID-19 surge; governor says feds likely to repay $80M price tag

Published 2:48 pm Tuesday, August 24, 2021

More than 1,000 out-of-state medical workers were starting to deploy to 50 Mississippi hospitals Tuesday to help with staffing shortages as the state continues dealing with a surge of COVID-19 cases.

Republican Gov. Tate Reeves said 808 nurses, three certified nurse anesthetists, 22 nurse practitioners, 193 respiratory therapists and 20 paramedics were hired under 60-day contracts that could be extended, if needed.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency awarded contracts to four companies of the 19 that submitted bids when the state sought medical workers earlier this month. Reeves said the contract employees are being deployed within nine business days from when the state Health Department asked MEMA to seek the help.

“That, in my view, is an impressive feat,” Reeves said during a news conference Tuesday.

Mississippi will pay $80 million for the contracts, and Reeves said he expects the federal government to reimburse the state for the entire expense.

The Army and the Air Force are also each deploying medical contingents to work in Mississippi, with 43 people from each branch.

The Health Department on Tuesday reported 3,291 new cases of COVID-19 and 111 new deaths from the virus, bringing the state’s coronavirus death total since the start of the pandemic to at least 8,158. Mississippi has a population of nearly 3 million and has reported nearly 417,000 COVID-19 cases since the spring of 2020.

Mississippi has seen a rapid increase in cases since early July, driven by the highly contagious delta variant of the virus and the state’s low vaccination rate.