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Booster is key to defeating omicron, health officials say

Published: Jan. 7, 2022 at 11:58 AM CST|Updated: Jan. 7, 2022 at 12:50 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Mississippi State Department of Health officials discussed COVID-19 issues at a press conference Friday.

State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs, State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers and Senior Deputy and Director of Health Protection Jim Craig discussed case counts, hospital capacity and testing issues at noon.

The press conference comes amid record-high totals of COVID-19 within Mississippi due to the highly-transmissible omicron variant. Both Wednesday’s and Thursday’s totals set new records for daily tallies in the state.

Byers says there is rapid transmission in every part of the state.

“We know omicron is much more infectious than the previous strains we’ve seen,” Byers said. He says 73 percent of cases in the state are from omicron.

He says while the omicron is typically more mild in most cases, the sheer amount of cases will lead to a spike in hospitalizations and deaths.

The most severe of cases, he said, remains in vulnerable individuals, like those who are 65 and older.

“The majority of those deaths are still occurring in individuals who are unvaccinated,” Byers said.

Just two percent of deaths in the last month have come from people who are fully vaccinated with a booster.

He says they will meet with schools next week and work on ways to keep children in schools while keeping precautions in place to prevent the spread of the virus.

Craig says the health department has 43 locations for testing set up across the state. They’ve seen an increase in testing appointments statewide and have done some adjustments to accommodate that, like raising the amount of daily tests in Rankin County to 1,000.

He says some areas are in need of ICU space, and not just because of COVID problems. As of Thursday, just 47 ICU beds were available statewide.

Byers pointed out that because we’re in the middle of flu season, there is likely to be increased hospitalizations from those patients with the flu as well.

They are concerned about the increase in outbreaks at long-term care facilities, but Byers says there has been a low number of deaths, which he says is due to the vaccination rate among these homes.

They expect high numbers of cases and high levels of transmission at least through the next week.

“It’s time to get a booster,” Dobbs said. “We know that’s how we can beat omicron.”

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