Aug. 13 (Reuters) – The crush of new COVID-19 infections in Mississippi has become so severe the state has turned to efforts reminiscent of the early days of the U.S. pandemic, when a field hospital was set up in Central Park in New York and a medical vessel was moored in the Hudson River.
With an overload of coronavirus patients and a shortage of healthcare workers in the state, the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) opened a 20-bed field hospital in its parking lot on Friday morning.
He plans to open a mobile hospital tent early next week, staffed with a medical team dispatched by the US Department of Health and Human Services.
The hospital opened a similar triage center in its parking lot in the spring of 2020.
Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves said the federal government had rejected his state’s request for the same US Navy hospital ship – the USNS Comfort – that docked in Manhattan in March 2020 to relieve hospitals of their COVID-19 patient load. At the time, New York was the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States.
“The demand for the ship was as much about the more than 500 people accompanying it as it was about the actual physical installation,” Reeves said at a press conference on Friday.
He said he hosted one of these federal medical workers in Mississippi but, like many of his Republican colleagues, also pledged never to force people to wear masks, which are known to be a effective defense against the spread of the coronavirus.
“I think every individual should make what they think is the best decision for themselves,” he said. Reeves told reporters he and his family had been vaccinated, but said there were “risks” associated with both getting vaccinated and not being vaccinated.
Low vaccination rates and the more infectious Delta variant of the coronavirus have resulted in a surge of COVID-19 cases across the United States, crushing some state medical systems.
It is also sending more children to the hospital. 1,871 pediatric patients were hospitalized in the United States as of Friday, according to CDC data, more than at any other time in the pandemic.
Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Oregon reported record global hospitalizations for COVID-19 this month, according to a Reuters tally, stretching intensive care units near capacity and forcing states to seek medical assistance from the federal government.
Republican governors in southern states such as Florida and Texas, however, have banned mask warrants and threatened to suspend funding for schools that enforce them. The White House plans to reimburse school officials who lose their salaries for flouting the ban. Read more
THE NUMBERS ARE GAINING
The number of daily cases across the country has doubled in the past two weeks, according to a Reuters tally, reaching a six-month peak, while the average number of daily deaths has increased by 85% in the past 14 days .
Florida, Mississippi and Oregon recorded unprecedented levels of COVID-19 cases in August, with Mississippi reaching its record high of 5,023 daily cases on Friday, according to a tally from Reuters and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the United States.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown said on Friday she was sending 500 National Guard members to help overwhelmed hospitals, with 1,500 total members available to help.
Brown said a statewide indoor mask warrant she issued this week, along with growing fears of this fourth wave of COVID, is not the news her constituents were hoping for hear by the end of summer.
“The harsh and frustrating reality is that the Delta variant changed everything,” Brown said in a recorded message.
Weekly cases in the state have doubled while weekly deaths have tripled in the past two weeks.
As of Thursday, 1,578 COVID-19 patients were currently admitted to hospitals in Mississippi, the highest since the pandemic began last year. More than 90% of his intensive care beds were occupied, according to HHS data.
The state has seen a 142% increase in hospitalizations in the past two weeks, according to a Reuters analysis.
A lawmaker in the Republican state of Mississippi announced Thursday that he had received a vaccine after “struggling” with the decision for months and seeing two doctors.
“The number of infections among the unvaccinated made me pull the trigger,” Senator Joel Carter Jr. said in a tweet.
Reporting by Anurag Maan in Bengaluru, Julia Harte and Peter Szekely in New York and Gabriella Borter in Washington, DC; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall and Daniel Wallis
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