Mississippi seeks doctors, nurses, ventilators as Covid patients pack ICU beds

A prisoner from the Bolivar County Correctional Facility receives a Covid-19 vaccination that was released on Jan.

Spencer Platt | Getty Images

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves on Friday pleaded with residents to get vaccinated as the state scrambles to hire hundreds of temporary doctors, nurses and rescue workers.

He has also requested ventilators from the Strategic National Stockpile as the proliferation of the Delta variant fills hospitals across the state with mostly unvaccinated patients. The state even asked federal officials to send a U.S. Navy medical ship, but it was refused, he said.

“If you look at the whole country, this current wave is to some extent the unvaccinated pandemic,” Reeves said at a press conference, adding that the state was heading for a new peak in the Covid-19 pandemic. “We keep seeing more and more data, and the data is getting clearer. Those who received the vaccine are far less likely to get the virus.”

For the few landmark cases in fully vaccinated people the state has seen so far, “They are much less likely to spread the virus, and very unlikely to end up in the hospital or hospital when you have the vaccine on an intensive care bed, “he said.

Mississippi on Thursday extended an emergency ordinance that was due to expire this week after the state hit a record of more than 5,000 new Covid cases in one day, Republican Reeves said. The rise in cases is likely to be followed by an increase in hospital admissions and deaths.

According to Reeves, the state has requested 65 doctors, 920 nurses, 41 nursing assistants, 59 advanced practice nurses, 34 medical assistants, 239 ventilators, and 20 rescue workers. The additional help would open 771 beds for medical surgery and 235 beds in the intensive care unit, he said.

About 97% of people currently hospitalized in the state for Covid are unvaccinated, a trend that can be seen across the country. This week, Mississippi’s daily hospital admissions rate hit numbers higher than any other state during the pandemic.

In the past four days, “we have lost four healthy people in their twenties, two of whom were pregnant, no vaccinations,” said Dr. Mississippi State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs during the briefing. “In the last four days we’ve lost 10 people in their thirties and they are not chronically ill cancer patients.” None of the 30-year-olds who died were vaccinated.

In other age groups, the number of deaths in the unvaccinated continued to exceed the number of deaths in the vaccinated.

“I mean, there’s a pattern here … by and large, the vaccines have been incredibly protective and helpful, and especially for people under 50,” said Dobbs.

The state has one of the lowest vaccination rates per capita in the United States, but daily vaccination rates have tripled in the last month due to the spread of the dominant Delta variant, according to state health officials.

The governor said he had no intention of prescribing masks or vaccines to government officials “or anyone else” and stressed that he believed these things were personal choices.

“Based on the data I have, I have no intention of issuing a nationwide mask mandate,” Reeves said at a press conference on Friday.

Reeves said he also has no plans to put masking mandates on schools, saying school districts “have every right” to encourage the use of masks if they see it necessary.

More than 5,000 children are currently in quarantine after positive cases were found only in the first few weeks of schools reopening, some with no mask requirement.

In total, according to the Mississippi State Department of Health, Mississippi has recorded 381,147 Covid cases and 7,761 deaths since the pandemic began.

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