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COVID-19 deaths could reach 2,500 in Mississippi, governor says



(Illustration by Viruscorona2020 - Own work + L'épidémie au 02/02/2020 - Pr G Pialoux, CC BY-SA 4.0,

During the daily COVID-19 update on Friday, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves and State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs agreed that the numbers of cases and deaths in the state will surge in the coming weeks.

“We’re looking at the data and we’ll be seeing rising case numbers over the next couple of months,” Dobbs said. “We anticipate a surge.”

The predictive models show that deaths from the virus could be from 1,000 to 2,500 in Mississippi, even with mitigating factors such as the governor’s shelter-in-place order, which went into effect Friday at 5 p.m.

Reeves said Mississippi’s numbers are extrapolated from White House estimates that 100,000 to 250,000 Americans could die from COVID-19 before the pandemic subsides. Mississippi’s population is about 1% of the nation’s population, and should, therefore, expect to see about 1% of the nation’s total deaths.

Mississippi may see higher numbers, however, due to the poor health of many of its residents. The state has long had one of or the highest rate of obese individuals in the nation as well as record numbers of people with diabetes, high blood pressure and other conditions making them more vulnerable to the virus.

“You look at the demographics in Louisiana where residents are less healthy and older, and our demographics, unfortunately, are similar to that,” Reeves said Friday. “But if everyone follows the shelter in place order, stays home and practices social distancing, we hope we can avoid those numbers.”

Louisiana’s per capita mortality rate is one of the highest in the nation at 7.9 per 100,000, but in the New Orleans area, the death rate is 38 per 100,000 residents, the highest in the nation by far. In New York City, the current epicenter of COVID-19 infection in the U.S., the death rate is 22.1 per 100,000.

As of Friday, about 5,600 Mississippians had been tested for COVID-19, Dobbs said.

The Mississippi State Department of Health has received 500 portable, battery-powered ventilators, which are being modified to run on AC current. Dobbs declined to say how many ventilators the state has to meet the expected surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

As of Friday at 6 p.m., MSDH reported 1,455 cases and 35 deaths. If deaths surge to 2,500, Mississippi could easily see more than 100,000 cases. At Mississippi’s current hospitalization rate for infected individuals (30%), the state will need some 30,000 hospital beds.

Dobbs indicated MSDH may include additional information for the public on its website, including the numbers of available hospital beds and ventilators, and the numbers of tests performed by private labs. To date, only the testing numbers from the MSDH lab have been released.

As to when the virus will peak and may begin to subside, opinion varies from about mid-April to mid-May.

“All the models of the novel coronavirus that I am following indicate that the peak of the case count and associated hospitalizations will occur in the last two weeks of April and the first two weeks of May,” wrote Dr. Lou Ann Woodward, vice chancellor at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. “Until then, we will continue to see our admissions of COVID-19 inpatients increase.” Woodward wrote the comment in an online open letter titled, “This is Our Time.”

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