Mississippi and Arkansas face a shortage of available intensive care beds as the delta variant triggers a further rise in coronavirus cases across the country.
As of Wednesday morning, only six critically ill patient intensive care beds were available in all of Mississippi, said Dr. Jonathan Wilson, executive director of the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
Health officials are coordinating to transfer patients where possible to alleviate some of the pressure on hospitals. Critical care patients include not only people with Covid-19, but also those who suffer from traditional health conditions, such as heart attacks and strokes.
“We are on the cusp of this. We know we’re not at the top of this wave, ”Wilson said Wednesday. “It’s bad, but it’s probably going to get a little worse.”
Only about 35 percent of the state’s population is fully vaccinated, according to state data.
Arkansas, which shares a border with Mississippi, said only 25 intensive care beds were open Wednesday, according to NBC affiliate KARK of Little Rock. About 42 percent of the state’s population has been fully immunized, according to the state’s health department.
There are also severe shortages of intensive care in parts of Louisiana, which borders both states and are also facing an increase in the number of cases. Its health department divides the state’s data into regions, Region 5, covering the Lake Charles area in the southwestern corner of the state, with the fewest intensive care beds available: two.
Region 4 faces a similar shortage, with only eight beds available for potential patients.
In contrast, Region 1, which covers the southeastern corner of the state in the New Orleans area, has 88 beds open to patients, according to the Department of Health. People who are not fully vaccinated represent 90% of hospitalizations related to Covid-19 in Louisiana.
Dr Catherine O’Neal, chief medical officer at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, said the hospital was swamped with cases.
“We are rationing care so that we can see the sickest people first, which means we are not providing adequate care for many people right now so that we can meet the needs of the sickest first,” said O’Neal Wednesday. “This safety net that every community depends on for every type of disease is starting to crumble, and this is very worrying. “
Only about 37% of Louisianans have been fully immunized, Reuters reported.
The delta variant, which is more transmissible than its predecessors, became the dominant strain of the coronavirus in the United States last month, and it has caused a new wave of infections. Coronavirus cases around the world topped 200 million on Wednesday, according to a Reuters tally.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidelines that everyone in high-case areas wear masks indoors, whether or not they are vaccinated. New data released by the agency last week showed that those who have been vaccinated but are still infected are just as likely to spread the new strain as their unvaccinated counterparts.
Groundbreaking cases, or infections despite vaccination, represent less than 0.08% of those who have been fully vaccinated since January, NBC News data showed last week. The vaccines have been shown to be very effective even in these cases, mainly preventing serious illnesses that would require hospitalization.
The groundbreaking case count could be higher than the 125,682 cases tracked by NBC News on Friday, due to milder symptoms that may occur in those vaccinated. Vaccinated people who are infected may not have any symptoms and therefore may not feel the need to be tested.