As the spike in coronavirus cases continues statewide in Mississippi, Scott County’s numbers have remained fairly stable, however, local healthcare officials warn that the worst is yet to come for typical critical care issues like heart attack and stroke.
“We got a new order yesterday (from State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs) that basically said get ready,” Lackey Memorial Hospital CEO Sydney Sawyer, RN, said Tuesday morning.
“I’m worried about it. We’ve got four in the hospital right now. Two are really sick. We’ve been able to transfer people so far but it is not to where we normally send them.” Sawyer said last week he found a hospital in Tupelo that would accept a patient and that is not a facility he typically utilizes.
“We still have all the regular emergencies,” Sawyer said. “Strokes, heart attacks, car wrecks, and all that stuff. We want to take care of everybody. We want to get them to the right place but it is scary for us in the business. There was only one ICU bed available in Jackson Monday. I’ve never seen that.”
Sawyer said that typically they transfer patients to University Medical Center or St. Dominic’s in Jackson, but with the COVID-19 outbreak those hospitals are now full. “You pick up the phone and call a hospital and say ‘I need a bed for somebody’ and when you find one somehow you get them transferred there. This is the part we’ve been afraid of the whole time and it is getting closer and closer,” the CEO said in reference to not being able to transfer critically ill patients who do not have coronavirus to larger facilities with intensive care units.
“We’ve got to do something,” he said. “This is about to get where we were afraid it was going to get. Where it stretches out our system so bad that we can’t get you somewhere. In normal times we do not have a problem getting a patient taken care of. We’re starting to see we have that problem.
“Eventually we will get to the point that we can’t take anyone and we’ve got people dying of stuff we can normally take care of. What I will tell you without a doubt is that we are at a tipping point with the beds in the tertiary hospitals (referral hospitals that provide specialized services). This is something more than anybody I know has ever experienced.”
Forest Mayor Nancy Chambers credited responsible businesses and individuals with helping keep the local positive cases of COVID-19 somewhat at bay.
“We are doing what we need to be doing inside the city to keep our numbers down,” Chambers said. “We’re not seeing a spike in numbers — it could come tomorrow, who knows. The credit goes to these local businesses requiring masks and the responsible citizens we have staying at home and when they are out in the public wearing masks.
“I think that by wearing the masks we are doing everything we can to slow this thing down. The situation is going to get critical. It already is. We are going to need to keep doing everything we are doing until we get to the other side. I think right now people are acting responsibly and as long as they are doing that we won’t have to issue a mandatory mask order. But I am prepared to do so.”
The mayor also reminded local restaurants that the state’s Safe Return order, extended Monday until August 3 by Governor Tate Reeves, requires the wearing of masks by all restaurant employees.
“If you are serving food, you are under a state mandate that you must wear a mask,” Chambers said. “That’s the car hop that is bringing the food to the car as well as the person making the food. If you are selling food you’ve got to wear a mask.”
Reeves announced Monday that he had extended his Safe Return and county-specific executive orders, adding 10 counties under the tighter social distancing measures to help limit transmission and protect public health.
The counties are Bolivar, Covington, Forrest, Humphreys, Panola, Sharkey, Simpson, Tallahatchie, Tate, and Walthall. They join 13 other counties that have been under the additional restrictions for the past week. Those counties are Claiborne, Desoto, Grenada, Harrison, Hinds, Jackson, Jefferson, Madison, Quitman, Rankin, Sunflower, Washington, and Wayne.
“COVID-19 is spreading and killing in our state,” the governor said. “It’s not a hypothetical — it is happening,”
As of Tuesday the Mississippi State Department of Health was reporting a new all time high one day number of positive coronavirus cases at 1,635 with 31 new deaths. This brings the statewide total since March 11 to 45,524 positive cases and 1,389 deaths. Scott County reported a total of 901 cases and 16 deaths. That is a gain of 64 cases since the same time last week and one new death.