With the current Covid-19 surge continuing to escalate, the state health officer on Tuesday issued a new order putting all hospitals back under the Covid System of Care Plan.

Under the mandatory order, a centralized system directs emergency patients to available hospital destinations without overburdening any particular hospital’s facilities.

While the severity of illness is less with Omicron, the “staggering number of cases and staffing challenges” has pushed ICU space beyond its capacity, according to State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs.

The order became effective Tuesday and is scheduled to be in place through Jan. 23. The Mississippi State Department of Health said the order is needed because of the inability of ill patients in rural areas to access care amid the limited ICU availability.

The new order is limited compared to the prior system of care order. It only includes situations such as heart attacks; strokes; immediate neurosurgical intervention, such as a severe car crash; transplant patients with complications; and ventilated patients at a hospital without an ICU, respiratory therapy or a ventilator.

Mississippi MED-COM, which is housed at the University of Mississippi Medical Center with the Mississippi Center for Emergency Services, will direct patients to available beds. When no beds are available, the plan allocates hospital destinations on a rotating basis based on geography and availability.

On Tuesday, MSDH reported 5,737 new Covid cases and 20 new deaths, including one Tippah County resident who died between Jan. 6 and 10, bringing the county’s total deaths to 88.

UMMC, the state’s largest hospital, held a press conference Tuesday to discuss the worsening Covid surge. Four weeks ago, the hospital had 18 Covid-19 patients, and the number had grown to 125 on Tuesday who were confirmed with the virus, awaiting test results or convalescing. The number included 98 adults and 19 children, with 23 adults and three children in the ICU.

The hospital had 25 patients in the Emergency Department waiting for a bed.

Not as many patients who have the Omicron variant are going to ICU as did Delta variant patients. But for those who do end up in ICU, “It’s just as bad,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, the hospital’s Covid-19 incident commander.

On Tuesday, the hospital had 80 to 90 front-line workers out on isolation.

“We don’t have enough staff to open up all the beds we have,” said Woodward.

As of Monday, Magnolia Regional Health Center had 25 Covid-19 patients hospitalized, up from 12 two weeks earlier.

Staff Writer

Jebb Johnston is a 1991 Alcorn Central High School graduate and a 1995 Ole Miss journalism graduate. His primary beats are city and county government.

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