July 23, 2021
Delta Variant Fuels Rise in COVID-19 Cases, Vaccination Appreciation Giveaway and Other Updates from Hattiesburg Clinic CEO Bryan N. Batson, MD
I had hoped that the majority of this month’s update would be devoted to the Vaccination Appreciation Giveaway that we have been planning for months, but the relevance of that campaign has taken on a whole new meaning over the last few weeks. During the week of July 4 alone, Hattiesburg Clinic facilities diagnosed 126 new positive COVID cases; during the following week of July 11, the clinic diagnosed 167 new positive cases – and new numbers continue to grow. The last time our total was this high was the week of Feb. 28.
Additionally, the positivity rate (the percentage of people tested whose test returned as positive) was 17.3% last week, which is the highest rate we have seen since the winter months when we were navigating dire situations regarding hospital bed, intensive care unit (ICU) and ventilator availability. Those circumstances of scarce resources that we lived through and remember all too well occurred before vaccines were widely available. As vaccines began to be administered, we reached a reprieve that has allowed us all to relax a little and return to a slightly more “normal” environment. Unfortunately, we are now again seeing sobering case numbers as the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) reported 2,326 new cases in a three-day period from July 16 through July 18, which is a stark reminder of the reality that this pandemic is not over.
Here are a few points to consider:
- Across the US, over 99% of COVID-related deaths since May have been in unvaccinated patients, and statistics are similar for hospitalizations and ICU stays.
- The Delta variant is spreading rapidly, especially in unvaccinated patients. It appears to be more contagious than prior strains and may be more likely to cause hospitalization.
- New information continues to emerge about lingering effects of prior COVID infection in what is being termed “Long COVID.” Studies have shown that nearly 25% of COVID patients experience post-COVID symptoms one month after their infection. As many as one in seven have symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, headache, mental sluggishness, anxiety and depression for three months and longer. This syndrome appears to be occurring in children as well.
- Mississippi ranks 50th in vaccination rate at 33.8%, and Forrest County is even worse at 27% despite widespread availability of the vaccine. This low vaccination rate is closely linked by health care experts to the rapid spreading of the Delta variant that we are experiencing.
- Local and regional hospitals have seen as much as a 400% increase in their COVID cases over the last few weeks, leaving them with few or no available beds in some cases.
- There has been a significant rise in Mississippi children needing an ICU bed for COVID treatment. Dobbs reported on July 14 that seven children statewide – with at least two of them needing to be on a ventilator – were in an ICU because of severe COVID infections.
As you can tell, we are in a risky position right now. If you have been vaccinated already, THANK YOU for helping protect yourself and our community. If you have not yet been vaccinated, please talk to your physician or another trusted health care provider and schedule an appointment. The Vaccine Appreciation Giveaway program was envisioned to be a celebration of progress toward reaching an end of the pandemic. It is certainly still a celebration, but it is also a plea to take part in what we know is the most effective way to prevent COVID-19.
On Saturday, Aug. 7, the City of Hattiesburg and Hattiesburg Clinic will host a follow-up COVID-19 vaccine clinic at the C.E. Roy Community Center, located at 300 East 5th Street in Hattiesburg, for those who received their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on July 17. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine will also be available for those who would like to receive a single shot.
As always, thank you for entrusting Hattiesburg Clinic with your care.
Bryan N. Batson, MD
Chief Executive Officer
Hattiesburg Clinic, PA