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85,770 COVID-19 cases reported in August were highest in state history

Dobbs and Byers
Dobbs and Byers
Published: Sep. 1, 2021 at 2:26 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - More than 85,000 people were infected with COVID-19 in August, the highest number of new monthly coronavirus cases reported in the state since the start of the pandemic.

State health leaders held a press conference Wednesday to discuss several aspects of COVID-19.

Among topics, officials discussed new cases, monoclonal antibody treatments, and stressed hospitals.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said the state is seeing a growing number of young people becoming infected with the virus and said that the vast majority of hospitalizations and deaths associated with the virus are among the unvaccinated or partially vaccinated.

“We can see the number of cases in August alone is over 85,000 and we’re not done with August,” Byers said. “Cases that have onsets in August will still be reported.”

Byers said the total new cases for August was significantly higher than any month during the pandemic, including December and January, during the previous wave.

By comparison, 63,137 cases were reported in December and 55,977 reported in January, during the previous wave.

Deaths, however, are slightly down. 838 deaths were reported last month, compared to more than 1,200 deaths in January and 1,085 in December.

“We’re not at that same point yet, but we still have a staggering number of deaths that have occurred in August so far,” Byers said.

Data collected by New York Times shows Mississippi is averaging 1.2 deaths per 100,000, making it the second-highest state in the nation for per capita deaths.

The state is only surpassed by Florida in new deaths, which is averaging 1.22 per 100,000 inhabitants, Times data shows.

Louisiana is averaging 1.05 deaths per 100,000 people, while Arkansas and Alabama are averaging 0.88 and 0.82 deaths per 100,000 residents, according to Times figures.

Florida and Texas are leading the way in average daily deaths, with 262.7 and 212.3, while Mississippi is averaging 35.9.

Meanwhile, most of the new infections are being seen in young adults and children, and among the unvaccinated and partially vaccinated. However, the number of infections at long-term care facilities is decreasing because of high rates of vaccination among long-term care residents.

“We have had a growing percentage of cases among younger individuals, especially in the 30 to 39 age group,” Byers said. “If you look at the impact of cases, we certainly, since we’ve started back to school, have seen a higher proportion of cases our kids 5 to 17 years of age - a growing percentage we’ve seen rapidly increase over time.

COVID-19 cases by age group.
COVID-19 cases by age group.(MSDH)

Additionally, 97 percent of new cases are among unvaccinated or partially vaccinated individuals, as are 87 percent of hospitalizations and 87 percent of deaths.

State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said the number of cases is stabilizing and there has been a modest decrease in hospitalizations. He’s also hopeful because more people are being vaccinated.

“We’ve got about 1.4 million Mississippians who have had at least one dose, and 1.2 million Mississippians who are fully vaccinated,” he said. “That’s going to pay huge dividends going forward as far as people who are going to get infected, or get severely ill, or sadly, pass away.”

As of August 31, there were 1,543 people hospitalized with the virus, compared to 1,667 on August 19, while 470 people were in the ICU, down from 486 on August 17, state documents show.

However, data shows a growing number of patients are needing ventilators to help them breathe. As of August 31, 348 patients were on ventilators, the most since August 11.

Dobbs, though, warned that even with the stabilization, hospitalizations are still high, as evidenced by the number of patients still needing intensive care services.

Across the state, 213 people are currently being held in emergency rooms, including 93 who are awaiting ICU beds. Of those 93, 26 are COVID patients, Mississippi State Department of Health Senior Deputy Jim Craig said.

“We shouldn’t see anyone being complacent with where we are,” said Dobbs. “We have a lot more coronavirus to go through before we get back to where we were previously.”

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