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December ends 2020 in record COVID-19 territory



December ends as the deadliest month of the year for COVID-19 in Mississippi and Warren County. Thursday, the Mississippi State Department of Health reported 2,756 new cases in the state and 51 in the county. The final tally of December cases is 62,541 in Mississippi and 956 in Warren County. Statewide cases nearly doubled the previous high of 33,110 set in November.

Deaths came uncomfortably close to the 1,000 predicted earlier this month with 980 statewide. The county reported 21 deaths in December, the equivalent of those reported in August, tying them as the deadliest months of the year for Warren County.

The final cumulative case count for the year is 215,811 in Mississippi and 2,743 in Warren County. Deaths totaled 4,787 for the year, 78 of which occurred in the county.

December saw a one-day record of new cases with more than 3,000 statewide for the first time Dec. 30. Warren County also reported a record one-day new case count of 88 the same day, smashing the previous one-day high of 56 reported in August.

Mississippi reported 85 new COVID-19 deaths Dec. 29, a new one-day record, breaking the record set Dec. 22 of 79 new deaths.

Warren County’s 14-day total of new cases is 500. The number of cases reported in December, 956, nearly doubles July’s previous high of 521. Trends predicted a total case count in December of more than 900.

The county is on the governor’s list of hot spots that include all but four of Mississippi’s 82 counties — Claiborne, Issaquena, Sharkey and Tunica — three of which neighbor Warren.

COVID-19 is one of the state’s leading causes of death at this time, according to State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs. Thursday, Dobbs tweeted that hospitalizations for severely ill COVID-19 patients are also in record territory.

“Highest number of COVID patients in ICU – 346 (5 of them are children),” he wrote.

“Highest number of COVID patients on ventilators: 219

“Highest number of total ICU patients on record: 842

“Please be safe this New Years. We all know what to do…”

Hospitalizations totaled more than 1,460 patients Tuesday, surpassing the July high of around 1,250 by at least 210 patients. Hospitals across the state — including Merit Health River Region in Vicksburg — are reporting that no ICU beds are available for any seriously ill or injured person, not just COVID-19 patients.

Mississippi’s health care system is overwhelmed, with another surge expected after the Christmas and New Year holidays.

“It’s bad, and it’s getting worse,” Dobbs said last week.

State health officials expect cases, hospitalizations and deaths to go even higher in January after the Christmas and New Year holidays and are strongly urging Mississippians not to hold or attend parties or any gatherings that include people not in their immediate families.

The state’s seven-day average of new cases is about 1,880 per day, with 13,160 new cases reported in the last week. The highest seven-day average in the last surge was around 1,360 for the week ending July 30.

Nationally, the cumulative cases in the U.S. have soared to more than 19.7 million, with some sources putting the figure as high as 20 million. Numbers of new infections, hospitalizations and deaths continue to rise although the rate of new cases seems to be slowing slightly.

The number of people who have died in the U.S. since the beginning of the crisis is about 342,577.

At least 3,808 people died of the virus Tuesday in the U.S., and at least 229,349 new cases were reported. Holiday closures may have had an effect on the drop in new cases in the last 14 days, about 13%. The rate of deaths has dropped 9% in the past two weeks; however, the number of people hospitalized across the nation continues to rise. About 125,220 people were in the hospital for COVID-19, an increase of 10% in the past two weeks.

For the moment, the explosive growth in new cases seems to be slowing, but some states are still seeing record numbers of new cases. California, for example, has a seven-day average of new cases of 37,474, an increase of 1% over the average two weeks ago. The state accounts for more than 2.2 million cumulative cases and more than 25,000 deaths to date.

The rate of new infections in the Midwest and Mountain States continue to show improvement, while the South is emerging as one of the nation’s most affected regions. Tennessee has been seeing more cases per capita than any other state, and Alabama is setting records for new cases and deaths. Mississippi is among several states where new deaths are on the rise.

Local and statewide COVID-19 statistics for Thursday, Dec. 31

In Warren County, MSDH reported 51 new COVID-19 cases Thursday and no new deaths. The cumulative number of cases in Warren County to date is 2,692, and the county’s death toll is 78. The seven-day average of new cases in the county 42.9 per day, nearly nine times higher than in early November when the average was about five cases per day, and nearly four times higher than the beginning of December.

Statewide, MSDH reported 2,756 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, bringing the total cumulative confirmed cases in Mississippi to 215,811. The seven-day average of new cases is 1,880 per day, more than a third higher than the seven-day average a month ago, when the state’s numbers were already on the rise. The current averages far outstrip the numbers seen at the height of the last surge in July.

At the beginning of the crises, the age group with the most COVID-19 cases were those over 65. Now, most new cases are seen in younger people who are more likely to survive the virus than those 65 and older. In December, the age group reporting the most cases in Mississippi are from 25 to 39 years old followed by those 50 to 64 years old.

MSDH reported that 40 more Mississippians died Thursday of COVID-19 statewide. The cumulative number of deaths in the state is 4,787. The state’s rate of deaths to confirmed cases is about 2.2%. This rate drops when the number of cases is going up faster than the number of deaths.

Deaths are a lagging indicator. During last summer’s surge, for example, July broke records for new cases. In August, deaths spiked. In August, the highest number of one-day deaths in Mississippi was 67 reported Aug. 25. The current surge began in Mississippi in late October, and the state is seeing record deaths in December, with 85 reported Dec. 29. November and December case numbers have exceeded cases reported in July, and December’s death toll has exceeded August’s by 167.

Of the 40 deaths MSDH reported Thursday, 38 occurred between Dec. 7 and Dec. 30 in the following counties:

County Total
Amite 1
Attala 5
Calhoun 1
Desoto 2
Forrest 3
Franklin 1
Hancock 1
Harrison 1
Hinds 2
Jackson 2
Lafayette 2
Leflore 1
Madison 3
Neshoba 1
Oktibbeha 1
PearlRiver 1
Pike 1
Pontotoc 1
Rankin 2
Simpson 1
Tallahatchie 1
Union 1
Winston 2
Yalobusha 1

An additional two COVID-19 related deaths occurred between Dec. 22 and Dec. 26 and were identified from death certificate reports.

County Deaths identified from death certificate reports
Madison 1
Tishomingo 1

New cases and deaths were reported to MSDH as of 6 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 30. MSDH usually reports statistics on the COVID-19 coronavirus each day based on the previous day’s testing and death reports.

The primary metric concerning state health officials are the numbers of people hospitalized, and that number has risen steadily since Nov. 4. COVID-19 hospitalizations threaten the state’s health care system as never before.

The number of Mississippians hospitalized for the virus as of 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 29, was 1,463. The number includes 1,387 with confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 76 people with suspected but unconfirmed cases. Of those with confirmed infections, 321 were critically ill and in intensive care units and 208 were on ventilators.

Source: MSDH

MSDH has estimated the number of people who can be presumed recovered from COVID-19 in Mississippi. That number is 167,263 through Sunday, Dec. 27. It represents about 77.5% of the cumulative 215,811 cases reported as of Thursday, Dec. 31.

The number of cumulative cases in Warren County three weeks ago, Thursday, Dec. 10, was 2,025, therefore the estimated number of people presumed recovered in the county is 1,947, or about 71% of the 2,743 cumulative cases reported as of Thursday, Dec. 31. The county has an estimated 718 active cases.

These estimates are based on MSDH’s guidelines for calculating estimated recoveries when hospitalizations are not known, using the number of cases 21 days ago, less known outcomes (deaths).

The total number of Mississippians tested for COVID-19 (PCR and antigen tests identifying current infections) as of Thursday, Dec. 19, is 1,669,558 or about 56.1% of the state’s 2.976 million residents. MSDH reports statewide test results about once a week. Without daily updated numbers of tests, it is impossible to accurately calculate Mississippi’s positivity rate (positive results to tests, seven-day average); however, the estimated rate was 20.1% Sunday, according to Johns Hopkins University. The national rate was 11.3% Wednesday, and 5% or lower indicates adequate testing.

The total number of outbreaks in long-term care facilities is 236 Thursday, a decrease of four since Wednesday. About 35.7%, or 1,709, of the state’s total deaths were people in long-term care facilities. The cumulative number of COVID-19 cases in LTC facilities is 9,341 Thursday, about 4.3% of the state’s total cases.

A total of 37 deaths in Warren County were residents of LTC facilities.

MSDH is no longer reporting outbreaks in individual long-term care facilities in Mississippi and has replaced that information with access to a database from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. You can access and search the data by provider here. The latest data available is for the week ending Dec. 20.

For additional information, visit the MSDH website or call the COVID-19 hotline seven days a week from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. at 877-978-6453.

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