Post-Thanksgiving surge in patients, COVID-19 tests push local clinics to their limits

Health experts believe record number of reported deaths are linked to Thanksgiving gatherings

Post-Thanksgiving surge in patients, COVID-19 tests pushes local clinics to their limits

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - As health officials wait to see whether Mississippi’s Christmas gatherings will push coronavirus cases even higher, Tuesday’s record number of reported COVID-19 deaths bring the state even closer to an unfortunate milestone: 1,000 deaths in one month.

Tuesday’s 85 deaths -- most of which took place within the last two weeks and were confirmed through health department investigations into death certificates -- also include 10 in Hinds County alone.

“I had a patient today, she’s lost two siblings. I had a patient last week who’s lost two siblings. Every day, if it’s not a patient of mine who has COVID is somebody who’s being impacted by it. So I’m doing a lot of counseling that’s taking longer,” said Dr. Justin Turner, an internal medicine specialist who runs Turner Care in Jackson. “Our message is the best way to avoid COVID is to avoid people. And there’s no simpler way to be able to say that.”

Health experts contend these recent spikes are from Thanksgiving gatherings, an impact also felt in urgent-care and family clinics across the Jackson metro.

“We’ve seen a huge increase since Thanksgiving,” Turner said. “I’ve been doing [telehealth calls] sometimes eight, nine o’clock at night. Never in my past have we ever had to work that long in a clinic. So just like the hospitals are full, clinics are full, too. People are sick.”

Turner said he sees one COVID patient a day at this point.

Urgent care clinics like TrustCare in Ridgeland have seen a surge in people wanting COVID-19 tests for at least the last month, too, according to Nurse Practitioner Kayla Harris.

“On a daily basis, we see over 100 patients a day, just for COVID testing,” Harris said.

Sometimes they have 30 to 40 people in a waiting room, too, a casualty of being a walk-in clinic.

“We have protocols, you know, that will have to start turn them away at a certain time,” Harris said.

Now that Christmas has come and gone, many health experts like Turner remain concerned about the spike that’s yet to appear while still dealing with the aftereffects from Thanksgiving.

One cautionary tale from one of his patients illustrates the inherent dangers in visiting family during this time.

“They had two kids to come home for Thanksgiving. And now, all five of them have COVID. The two kids have COVID, the husband and wife. The husband just got out of ICU. And a mom who’s in her 80s just finished her battle with COVID as well,” Turner said. “That’s one family where two people who just wanted to come home and spend time with their family came home.”

Turner said the vaccine couldn’t have come at a better time, because even though many of his patients wear masks and socially distance, that’s still a battle some Mississippians aren’t choosing to fight.

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