Spike in Grenada COVID-19 transmissions threatens health system response
From UMMC Jackson
GRENADA, Miss. – Significant and alarming transmission of COVID-19 in Grenada and the region threatens to overwhelm health care resources leading into the Fourth of July weekend, city and health care officials warn.
“The inpatient beds at UMMC Grenada are currently at capacity, and that includes the care of 16 patients positive for COVID-19,” said Dodie McElmurray, chief executive officer of the hospital, a campus of the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
That’s the highest number of COVID-19 positive patients hospitalized at UMMC Grenada since the beginning of the pandemic. Over the past week, the number of COVID-19 positive hospitalized patients rapidly increased from three to 16, McElmurray said.
“We’re seeing more COVID-19 patients than we’ve seen through the whole time frame” of UMMC Grenada’s COVID-19 response, she said. “Our testing numbers have tripled, but the criteria for testing has not changed.”
In addition to UMMC Grenada operating at capacity, “we have significant numbers of hospital staff who are out due to COVID-19. That further impairs our ability to respond. These are some really hard truths.”
The stark warning comes as the state is reporting double the number of new cases that it was seeing two weeks ago, with that daily average at just over 600. Today, the Mississippi State Department of Health reported 653 new confirmed positive cases and nine new deaths. Hospitalizations statewide stand at 579 for those confirmed with the virus and 207 people suspected of having the virus, but awaiting test results.
Data compiled by the New York Times captured June 30 shows that Grenada County ranks 12th in the nation in recent COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people. Based on its most recent 197 cases, Grenada County statistically averages 949 positive cases per 100,000 population, the report says.
It’s one of two Mississippi counties on a list of 25 dominated by Louisiana, Missouri and Arkansas, with East Carroll County, La., showing the largest transmission rate of the 25 at 2,755 cases per 100,000 people.
Claiborne County was also on the list with 78 cases, or 868 per 100,000.
Grenada County as of today has recorded 380 cases and five deaths, in addition to 21 nursing home outbreaks with five deaths there, the MSDH says.
Mayor: “We have a crisis”
“We have a crisis,” said Grenada Mayor Billy Collins,” I’ve been mayor since 2005. We’ve never been in a crisis like we are now.”
His message, and that of McElmurray and the health care community: “We need to distance ourselves. We need to wear a mask, wash our hands, use sanitizer and stay at home. We need to take precautions.”
Collins urges Grenada-area residents to spread the message “to your family, your neighbors and your friends. This coronavirus is very real. Our numbers are increasing every day. We’ve got to get a handle on this.”
The increase in confirmed positive cases is not due to testing, Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs told National Public Radio on Tuesday. McElmurray emphatically agrees with him. “We are testing more people because they are having symptoms. They are not asymptomatic,” she said.
Dobbs’ words are especially critical for the coming holiday weekend.
“It seems like we went from a shutdown mentality to it’s an all-open mentality,” Dobbs told NPR. “Especially with the social gatherings, what we’ve seen time and time again are violations. We’ve seen a lot of transmission events and block parties and sort of social events that are really distressing for us.”
Health system stressed-out
The alarming increasing in transmission is affecting Mississippi’s health care system by “stressing it out, quite honestly,” Dobbs told NPR. “That’s something that we’re extremely concerned about. We do monitor our hospital beds every day, especially our ICU bed capacity, particularly in certain regions or in the Jackson area, which is the referral center for a lot of different areas.
“We have single-digit availability for the whole city commonly for ICU beds. And it’s not just the ICU beds that’s the problem, but it’s also the staffing. And that’s where we really think the pinch is going to come.”
McElmurray urges residents to heed the advice of the health care community on wearing masks in public, social distancing of at least six feet and other efforts “so that we can slow the spread of the virus, and prevent further stress on our health care system.
“While we realize that it’s a holiday, gatherings by the public could result in significantly higher spread. We definitely don’t need that to happen with the numbers we are seeing now.”
“Stay at home if at all possible,” Collins said. “I know that there are parties. I know that the young people are going to have gatherings, and they will bring this virus home to their families, and to the older and elderly in our community.
“If we are going to slow this down, we must do what the medical community says.”
Cases among young
MSDH statistics through June 30 show that Mississippians ages 18-29 range have significantly more positive cases than any other age group, with 5,628. It’s an alarming statistic that demonstrates growing and consistent transmission among young adults, compared to statewide totals of just 496 cases for those ages 90 and above, 1,213 cases for those ages 80-89, and 1,975 cases for those ages 70-79.
Those younger than 18 make up 2,430 of Mississippi’s cases, figures that show the virus attacks children as well as adults.
UMMC Grenada continues to host drive-through testing in front of the hospital at 965 JK Avent Drive. On Monday and Tuesday of this week, a total 175 people were tested. In order to be tested, people are asked to remain in their vehicle and are swabbed by a health care provider. Hours are 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday, and an appointment is required. Call 1-662-227-7200 to make an appointment.
It’s critical for those who are testing but awaiting results to self-isolate at home, away from friends and family, for at least seven days from when symptoms first began or three days after symptoms improve significantly, whichever time is longer.
As the holiday nears, McElmurray encourages anyone who has symptoms of the virus to make an appointment and get tested. “The more people we can identify through Saturday with testing, the fewer people will be out spreading the virus,” McElmurray said.