JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in Mississippi has plummeted in recent weeks, dropping 55 percent since January 4 and giving frontline health care workers across the state a chance to catch their breath.
That rest will be short-lived at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, however.
“It gives folks a little bit of a reprieve from the high volume, but unfortunately this time of year is one of our timeframes when we, you know, without COVID, where we see high volumes of really, really sick people,” said Dr. Alan Jones, assistant vice chancellor for clinical affairs at UMMC.
Jones said the hospital has 60 COVID-19 patients, roughly half of what UMMC had cared for at the pandemic’s peak.
Now other issues are filling hospital beds, mostly trauma-related ones like stroke or heart failure, Jones said.
As the state’s only level-one trauma facility, UMMC gets hit especially hard during the first few months of the year.
Jones said he’s hopeful for this light at the end of the pandemic’s eleven-month tunnel in the Magnolia State, but needs to see more progress first.
“We remain concerned about a few things, particularly these virus variants are floating around and you know, the increase in infectivity that we see with them, and the fact that we’re not 100 percent sure about how the vaccines will work with some of those variants,” Jones said.
The Centers for Disease Control has not found any of those variants in Mississippi at this point, but 34 states have at least one of them, according to data provided by the agency.
Hospitalizations aren’t the only coronavirus-related metric trending downward; a 3 On Your Side analysis of data from the Mississippi State Department of Health shows the seven-day average of daily reported COVID-19 cases at a three-month low.
Jones said declining hospitalizations and average cases are encouraging, but the one thing that makes him most proud is the resilience of his staff as they’ve endured nearly a year of pandemic stress, something few outside health care can understand.
“It seems like we were running a marathon with a mirage of a finish line. And when we think we’re getting close it, it seems to go away or move on us. But I think we remain hopeful with the fact that the volumes are down,” he said.