During a press conference on Tuesday, Gov. Tate Reeves announced that the eligibility requirements to receive a COVID-19 vaccination in Mississippi are being widened to include those over the age of 65 and those who have pre-existing conditions that make them more vulnerable to COVID-19 related complications.
Those pre-existing conditions, outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are: cancer, chronic kidney disease, Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Down syndrome, heart conditions, immunocompromised conditions, obesity, pregnancy, sickle cell disease, smoking and diabetes.
Mississippians that meet these requirements can schedule appointments to receive their first vaccine dose by calling 1-877-978-6543 or online at covidvaccine.umc.edu.
As of Tuesday, 62,744 vaccine doses have been given in Mississippi. That total includes about 5,000 Mississippians who have received their first and second doses. The shots administered account for less than half of the 140,000 doses distributed to hospitals. Still, the state has more than doubled its rate of administering doses over the past week, a trend MSDH hopes to continue with the widened eligibility requirements.
"We have too many vaccines that have been distributed that are not yet in arms,” Reeves said. “And for those entities where that is the case, we have and we will continue to reduce the allocation to those who are not fulfilling the mission.”
The DeSoto County Health Department is currently administering up to 22 doses each day.
Health officials have stressed that getting vaccinated alone isn’t sufficient reason to act as if everything is back to normal. According to the CDC, “It typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after vaccination. That means it’s possible a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and still get sick.”
The Mississippi Department of Health reported 1,648 new coronavirus cases and 98 deaths on Wednesday.
This brings the state to a total of 241,937 coronavirus cases and 5,284 deaths.
Desoto County has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the state, with 16,475 confirmed. For most of the pandemic, DeSoto County only trailed behind Hinds County, the state's most populous county, in its caseload. Hinds now ranks second with 15,559 cases. Harrison County on the Mississippi Gulf Coast ranks third with 12,447 cases. Jackson County ranks fourth with 9,800 confirmed cases.
As of Jan. 12 there were 112 COVID-19 patients and zero open ICU beds at Baptist Memorial Hospital in Southaven. Data was not available for Methodist Healthcare in Olive Branch. It's been well over a month since more than three ICU beds were open in DeSoto County, with zero being open on some days.
“Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare remains in a stable state across our entire system. We closely monitor capacity at each of our hospitals,” A Methodist Le Bonheur spokesperson said in a statement. “The data shown on the state website is a single snapshot in time. It’s important to note that the number of total operational beds consistently fluctuates based on staffing and availability. As a large healthcare system, we have the ability to transfer patients from one hospital to another, if needed.
As of Jan. 12, there were 6 active outbreaks among DeSoto County long-term care facilities, with 111 total cases between them. The state department of health defines an outbreak at a long-term care facility as one or more cases among residents or two or more cases among staff within 14 days.
Across the state, there are a total of 222 outbreaks at long-term care facilities. 9,796 Mississippians in LTC facilities have tested positive for COVID-19 and 1,791 have died.
The DeSoto Times-Tribune offers daily COVID-19 updates as new data from the state becomes available. Check back tomorrow for updated information.