Thursday, January 6, 2022
For the second day in a row this week, the Mississippi State Department of Health reported a record number of COVID-19 cases throughout the state. At 7,079 new infections, the number tops what was only yesterday the previous record at 6,592 cases.
MSDH had not reported these kinds of case numbers since last August, when the previous record sat at 5,048 cases on Aug. 20. During those months the delta variant remained the dominant strain, with an average of 50 deaths per day or more during the worst weeks of last fall.
MSDH reported over 36,000 new cases in Mississippi since Dec. 30, but at 61 deaths for that same period, fatalities are looking to be lower on average than the worst months of 2021.
The difference in how omicron infects people compared to delta, targeting the throat more so than deeper lung infections, may be a reason for the less-lethal outcomes on average.
The record number of cases and increasing hospitalizations means more stress on healthcare systems, along with continuing shortages in nursing and healthcare staff.
Outbreaks among long-term care facilities continued to increase this week, with MSDH reporting 265 outbreaks in the latest report. This number outpaces last year’s winter surge peak of 244 LTC outbreaks, which also saw a much higher average fatality count compared to the number of daily cases.
In order to combat this surge in LTC outbreaks, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs issued a state-wide order this week that all employees involved with nursing homes and assisted living facilities must either be fully vaccinated or receive negative COVID-19 tests twice weekly. The order involves both all nursing staff as well as ancillary employees who may come into contact with residents. Staff must have two doses of Pfizer or Moderna shots, or one Johnson & Johnson shot to be qualified as fully vaccinated.
In a tweet this week, Dobbs noted that vaccination among older Mississippians drastically lowers the risk of severe illness.
“Can vaccinated folks get COVID? Yes - but it's less likely and they are far less likely to be hospitalized or to die from COVID,” Dobbs said. “With Boosters - protection is even better!”
The World Health Organization reported a world-wide record breaking 9.5 million cases of COVID-19 this week, outlining the fast pace of the omicron variant’s spread across the globe.
Hospitalizations and deaths have not increased at the same rate as infections. The WHO cautions however that this data point does not mean omicron is not dangerous, and deadly.
“It does not mean it should be categorized as mild,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “Just like previous variants, omicron is hospitalizing people, and it’s killing people.”
Email Reporting Fellow Julian Mills at [email protected].