Thursday, August 27, 2020
Mississippi’s COVID-19 recovery is on shaky ground as August ends, with uncertain trends in new cases—neither the clear improvement from previous weeks nor the spiralling growth seen in last month’s peaks. A tragic spike in reported deaths reflects both lingering fatalities from the many COVID-19 patients still hospitalized and earlier deaths from recent months discovered to have been coronavirus-induced.
The Mississippi State Department of Health announced 585 new cases of COVID-19 today, following 904 on Wednesday and 801 from Tuesday. The seven-day rolling average in Mississippi is 750—but more significant is the date of case onset, which provides additional clarity as to when infections are actually acquired, without much of the noise of delayed reporting and backed-up private labs. The most recent case-onset chart shows the sharp decline in COVID-19 from last month’s highs, but also displays the first signs of a coming uptick.
Syndromic surveillance, too, is another early indicator for stress on the hospital system. The chart gauges emergency-room and clinic visits for various respiratory conditions—individually, no guarantee of a COVID-19 infection, but in aggregate, a clear sign of coming pressure on the state’s hospitals and ICUs. The extended dome of the surveillance data shows the influx of patients suffering from the symptoms of COVID-19—its downward slope tracks with the general decline in cases that the state has experienced in late August.
Hospitalization numbers follow the same general trends: July’s terrifying spike became a plateau in early August. Hospitalizations have declined from well over 900 confirmed COVID-19 patients statewide to just under 700 in a matter of only two weeks, giving the state’s health-care providers a brief moment of respite in a struggle that is certain to continue.
The slump in hospitalizations explains the likely temporary end to Mississippi’s moratorium on elective surgeries. As State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs explained in a panel at the Mississippi State Medical Association last Friday, given the increased transmission from schools, now is the time to seek important but elective surgeries. Dobbs expects that window to close by late September.
This week, Mississippi has suffered from some of the most bruising reports of COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. Many of these deaths are recent with almost-certain connections between the many new fatalities and the emptying hospital beds. MSDH took the time to confirm deaths from late July and early August before reporting them as COVID-19-induced. Today, it reported that 26 Mississippians have died of complications from COVID-19; yesterday, that number was 58. The day before, the State reported a peak of 67 coronavirus deaths, most from in July and earlier in August.
Mississippi is now likely to see cases resulting from community transmission in the state’s schools and colleges, as well as the social events surrounding the fall semester return. Last week’s MSDH reports indicated that 897 infected students and staff entered Mississippi schools so far, resulting in the quarantining of roughly 8,000. This data is limited with only 720 of Mississippi’s more than 1,000 public schools reporting data to MSDH thus far. More complete data is expected to come next week.
Read the JFP’s coverage of COVID-19 at jacksonfreepress.com/covid19. Get more details on preventive measures here. Email state reporter Nick Judin at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @nickjudin.