JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said we’re beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel in terms of the coronavirus pandemic, and said the state is looking into lifting some restrictions on medical services.
“We’re hopeful that we’ll be able to lift the restrictions on elective surgeries by (January 25),” he said. “It’s a long tunnel, and the light is dim ... but I’m not sure we can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Dobbs put the ban on certain elective procedures in place in December citing the rising need for ICU beds. However, he says the need for those beds is now beginning to drop.
Additionally, Dobbs said that the state is expected to open a drive-through vaccination site in Hinds County next week, although he didn’t say what day it would open or where it would be located.
“Stay tuned,” he said.
On Friday, Dobbs and other state leaders met for a weekly Zoom conference hosted by the Mississippi State Medical Association.
Gov. Tate Reeves joined medical officials, where the governor discussed progress on the vaccine front, and Dobbs discussed potentially lifting a ban on elective surgeries, saying that hospital capacity is improving.
He said MSDH is also looking at lifting its COVID-19 system of care plan, which was put in place to appropriate hospital resources during the pandemic.
Even with the good news, it’s not time to start celebrating.
“It’s still pretty bad. We’re not seeing 3,000 cases a day. We’re seeing 1,600 to 2,000 a day,” Dobbs said. “We’re seeing a moderation in hospitalization. This is the first day we’ve seen a decrease in ICU capacity since the beginning of December – just a little bit, but we’re watching it closely.”
Meanwhile, Reeves announced that the state had reached a major milestone in vaccination efforts.
“Today is a milestone; we will be able to confirm exactly what the final number is at the end of the day, but I can tell you with complete confidence that we’ve inoculated the 100,000th Mississippian,” Reeves said. “That is a great, great number.
“We did approximately 20,500 vaccinations in the first three weeks of the rollout,” he added. “We’ve done approximately 80,000 over the last 10 days or so.”
The governor expects to get 200,000 more people vaccinated in the next three weeks. Also, he expects medical officials to increase the number of shots given at each testing site by 30 to 50 percent each week after that.
“We know next week, we’re going to get 77,000 in total allocation, in first and second doses, we’re going to be able to put in arms,” he said.
The state stopped accepting appointments for vaccinations earlier this week, saying all available and upcoming allocations had been spoken for.
MSDH officials anticipate having additional drive-through appointments in more locations on the week of January 25 based on the number of vaccines predicted to be available by the end of next week.
Dobbs gave what he called his “mea culpa” for the confusion surrounding the announcement that no more appointments were being accepted.
“We had anticipated an infusion of additional vaccine in February to ramp up more. That’s what we intended to communicate, that piece, and that (with) all the vaccine we currently had en route, appointments were full,” he said. “We didn’t want people on the phone, getting mad, when there were no appointments to be had.”
Next week, the state is slated to receive around 37,000 doses of the vaccine. Meanwhile, MSDH is expected to draw down on some of the vaccines initially distributed to nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
Approximately 20,000 doses are being pulled back to be redistributed to the state’s hospital program, private clinic program and state-run vaccination sites. Those doses include 10,000 first doses and 10,000 second doses.
Reeves explained that doses allocated to long-term care facilities as part of the pharmacy program were allocated by the federal government based on beds and number of employees.
“We know that in Mississippi, those facilities are nowhere near at 100 percent capacity,” Reeves said. “We believe of the 78,000 doses that have been allocated, we believe we’re not going to need all of those.”
Efforts to ramp could increase the state’s chances of getting additional doses.
“(The Biden administration) is going to give additional vaccinations to states that have proven the ability to ramp up and get shots in the arms,” Reeves said.
Less than two weeks ago, Mississippi’s chances of getting more allocations were pretty dim. However, Reeves said that thanks to the efforts of MSDH, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and the Mississippi National Guard, those chances have improved greatly.
“Last week, Monday at 8 a.m., we were 50 out of 50,” he said. “Because everyone has worked so hard, we have surpassed 10 states in 10 days. We have surpassed South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama.”