Top Miss. health official: ‘Absolutely terrified we’re going to overwhelm health care system'

Dr. Thomas Dobbs (L) and Dr. Paul Byers (R)
Dr. Thomas Dobbs (L) and Dr. Paul Byers (R)(WLBT)
Updated: Jun. 25, 2020 at 5:37 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The Mississippi State Department of Health discussed a record-high number of cases reported in Mississippi on Thursday.

More than 1,000 cases were reported--several hundred more than the previous record-high total.

“I’d say this is a surprise but this is not even remotely a surprise,” State health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said about the increase.

MSDH officials say the spike in cases is highest among people ages 18-29.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers says the spike cannot be tied to any one event, but transmission is coming from groups of people who are gathering together and not social distancing or wearing masks.

“There have been a lot of parties where 300 people are coming together,” Byers said. “We cannot act surprised when we’re nor following social distancing guidelines.”

Byers said the young adults are likely to recover from the virus, but they can spread it to others who are in the more vulnerable population.

Byers points out that deaths are decreasing and cases in long-term care facilities are decreasing, but he said he wouldn’t be surprised if those things began increasing once again if people continue to ignore social distancing.

The real problem, the doctors said, is the selfishness of people who would rather be comfortable and not make adjustments than be slightly inconvenienced in order to save lives.

“The truth is there’s a lot of COVID out there and it’s killing people,” said Dobbs. “And it’s going to kill people and it’s going to stress out our healthcare system. That’s just reality. And if people don’t want to acknowledge it, then, you know, I hope when they go to the ICU and want care that there’s care available for them.”

Dobbs says the state has seen the highest number of hospitalizations over the past few days.

“I’m absolutely terrified we’re going to overwhelm the health care system,” he said.

Dobbs and Byers agree the fall has the potential to be significantly worse than what we’ve already seen. Byers says the risk of COVID-19 on top of the flu season could easily overwhelm ICUs and hospitals.

Dobbs said if health care systems become more inundated, there may be a need to restrict elective procedures again.

Dobbs says he wants everyone to wear a mask, but until everyone including top officials begin to show an example, it may be difficult to get people across the state to wear masks.

“Follow the current rules, for crying out loud,” Dobbs said. He says the health department will go around to restaurants and make sure everyone is following the rules.

Dobbs denies that more tests are increasing the rate of positive tests. He said their testing has been steady and the spike in positive cases is independent of that.

He says the state needs to look at stricter measures to make sure people are social distancing.

“At this trajectory, it’s going to be a mess,” he said.

Tate Reeves offered up this response:

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