Analysis: Higher coronavirus case rates, fewer critical care options for rural counties than Jackson metro

Recent data also reveals spike in positive cases of people in their 30s
Updated: Mar. 25, 2020 at 9:09 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - As coronavirus cases continue to rise, there could be greater cause for concern in Mississippi’s rural counties because of the lack of healthcare resources and critical care services there.

A 3 On Your Side analysis of the Magnolia State’s COVID-19 reveals that mostly rural counties have much higher rates than the state’s most populous areas.

Of the ten counties with the highest case rates, four are in the WLBT area.

Wilkinson County has the highest rate thus far, at 5.7 cases per 10,000 residents, followed by Tippah, Coahoma, and Leflore, which has one case for every 2,000 people there.

Holmes and Franklin counties are sixth and seventh-highest, with the latter having three cases for less than eight thousand people.

By comparison, Madison and Hinds counties have a rate of 1.6 per 10,000 people, and Rankin County’s rate is 1.3 cases per capita.

Having lots of cases in rural counties means there’s a risk of those patients not receiving proper medical care.

Wilkinson’s nearest hospital is over the county line, and has few, if any, critical care services, like intensive-care beds.

One of Wednesday’s four coronavirus deaths came from Wilkinson County, according to the Mississippi State Department of Health.

The unidentified patient, listed as being between 85 and 90 years old, had sought care in a Baton Rouge hospital before dying Wednesday, according to the East Baton Rouge Parish coroner.

In fact, three of the state’s five deaths thus far have come from rural counties with some of the highest case rates.

While patients over the age of 65 are at greater risk of succumbing to the virus, recent data from MSDH shows a sudden spike in cases of those far younger over the course of just three days.

The 3 On Your Side analysis shows nearly half of Mississippi’s positive COVID-19 cases involve people under the age of 50.

It also shows a sharp increase in cases of 30 to 39 year olds, compared with numbers from just three days earlier.

As of March 20, thirteen people ages 30 to 39 tested positive.

On March 23, that number skyrocketed to 41, an increase of 215 percent.

Of all the age groups, that bracket showed the largest increase, according to MSDH data obtained by 3 On Your Side.

Second-highest: Mississippians over 70. That number of cases jumped nearly 162 percent.

What does that mean?

Younger people could be more vulnerable to the virus than originally thought.

Last week, a report from the CDC showed that nearly 40 percent of all U.S. coronavirus cases resulting in hospitalization involved those aged 20 to 54.

Keep in mind that Mississippi health officials have not released the ages of those hospitalized here.

According to state health officials, 27 percent were hospitalized as of March 23, which works out to more than 86 people.

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