Ahead of more holiday gatherings, state health leaders are keeping watch on an uptick in Covid-19 activity and increasing influenza activity.

“Hospitalizations are clearly rising,” said State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs. “All of our indicators are on an upward trajectory. We are going to have more – there’s no doubt about it.”

Along with that, “We are seeing increases in our flu activity statewide, as well, both in surveillance data that we get directly from providers, but also through the syndromic surveillance for Covid,” said State Epidemiologist Paul Byers.

Their remarks came during a weekly roundtable discussion with the Mississippi State Medical Association.

While hospital pressures eased with the downturn in the Delta surge, there are still challenges.

“Our health systems are really struggling right now,” said Dobbs. “We know that a lot of beds are offline because of staffing concerns. I’m already getting calls from ERs because patients can’t get transferred … I think it’s very likely in the near future, sadly, that we’re going to have to look at the System of Care situation again, the elective surgery situation.”

The latest available weekly snapshot, for the week of Nov. 21-27, showed a 24 percent drop in new positive cases across the four-county area, but it was also a holiday week, which typically results in fewer reported cases. The week had 95 new cases, down from 125 the prior week and 147 two weeks earlier. Alcorn County had 17 new cases for the week, down from 40 the prior week. Prentiss County had 28, nearly unchanged from 29; Tishomingo, 32, up from 20; and Tippah, 18, down from 36.

The Mississippi State Department of Health reported two area deaths this week – one in Alcorn County that occurred between Nov. 25 and 29, bringing the county total to 108, and one that occurred in Prentiss County between Nov. 22 and 26, bringing the county total to 86.

MSDH reported 745 new positive cases and five new deaths on Thursday.

The state confirmed the first case of the Omicron variant in Mississippi on Monday in a fully vaccinated individual who had traveled to New York.

With the new variant, “We’ve got a lot of questions to answer about the severity of illness,” said Byers.

In an update on youth vaccinations, he said the state is near 15,000 in the 5 to 11 age group who have received at least one shot, with 1 percent of the age group being fully vaccinated.

Looking to holiday gatherings, Dobbs urges people to wear masks among indoor groups and to consider doing activities outside if possible.

“I encourage people to do what they’re going to do, but do it as safely as possible,” he said.

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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