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‘We really are in the fifth wave now’ | State health leaders discuss rising COVID-19 cases

State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs.
State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs.
Published: Dec. 29, 2021 at 1:55 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Officials with the Mississippi State Department of Health discussed the spike in COVID-19 cases at a press conference Wednesday.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said more than 10,000 cases have been reported in the last seven days, and on Wednesday there were 140 outbreaks in long-term healthcare settings. Of those, 100 outbreaks are in nursing homes.

“We really are in the fifth wave now, for COVID in Mississippi,” he said. “That’s how fast we’re seeing things grow. In addition to outbreaks, we’re seeing an increased demand for testing.”

More than 80,000 additional COVID-19 tests were performed in the state last week, with about 11 percent of those tested having the virus. “We’re at high to substantial levels of community transmission in every part of the state,” Byers said.

Nearly 3,600 new cases of COVID were reported in Mississippi on December 29.

67 percent of new infections are due to the Omicron variant.

To meet the growing demand for testing, the state is expanding the times and places where people can get vaccinated.

In Rankin County, the state has doubled the number of testing appointments available at Trustmark Park and announced it will be open on New Year’s Day from 8 a.m. to noon. In Hinds County, the testing site at the farmer’s market will also be operating on New Year’s Day. And beginning on December 30, additional testing will be offered at the Southaven Community Room in Desoto County.

Mobile testing is available in these areas:

  • Adams County - Tuesday and Wednesday
  • Claiborne County - Tuesday through Thursday
  • Coahoma County - Monday, Wednesday and Friday
  • Desoto County - Hernando, 5 days per week
  • Hancock County - 5 days per week
  • Harrison County - 5 days per week
  • Jackson County - 5 days per week
  • Lafayette County - 5 days - doubled slots available
  • Leake County - Monday, Wednesday and Friday
  • Lincoln County - 5 days per week
  • Lowndes County - 5 days per week, doubled slots available
  • Marion County - from half-day to full-day, 5 days per week
  • Marshall County - Tuesday through Friday
  • Panola County - 5 days per week
  • Pearl River County - 5 days per week
  • Scott County - 4 full days per week, doubled appointment slots, Tuesday through Friday
  • Stone County - from half-day to full-day, increased appointment slots, 5 days a week
  • Tunica County - Tuesday and Thursday

Officials are urging people to continue to wear a mask at work and in public settings, get vaccinated, or get a booster shot if they’re eligible.

Students should also wear masks when they return to school in January.

As for vaccinations, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs says the booster shot provides about 70 percent protection against Omicron.

Meanwhile, he said current monoclonal treatments are far less effective against the newest variant. And even though more effective treatments for Omicron are on the horizon, they are not available yet.

“We know how to impede the transmission of coronavirus, and it’s the simple things that have already worked,” Dobbs said. “If we can do that for just a couple of weeks, we’ll be in a lot better shape than we are right now.”

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