In one week, number of students testing positive for COVID-19 doubles in Mississippi

Possibility of surge in pediatric hospitalizations threatens already-crippled health care system
In one week, number of students testing positive for COVID-19 doubles in Mississippi
Published: Aug. 25, 2021 at 9:57 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - As hospitalizations from COVID-19 limit Mississippi’s ability to care for the most critical patients in its health care system, a surge in infected students inevitably means a percentage of those children will also have to be admitted as well, leaving the state’s only children’s hospital vulnerable.

“It’s going to get ugly unless we take this seriously,” said Dr. John Gaudet, a pediatrician who practices in the Hattiesburg area.

For a week now, Mississippi’s hospitalizations from COVID have started to plateau, yet still remain dangerously high.

Data released Wednesday by the Mississippi State Department of Health shows 1,698 patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infections currently.

Gaudet worries that the virus’ impact on children will only get worse because infections keep spreading in schools.

The number of students testing positive for COVID-19 doubled in just one week, with 11,766 students in all with the infection since the beginning of August.

“It is frightening, and it’s scary and it’s because of the unknown and what the future holds for your child and the parents’ concern is legitimate. They’re also concerned about if their child gets sick, that it could spread throughout the whole family. And, of course, no one wants their child to suffer,” Gaudet said.

Gaudet said he believes mask requirements and social distancing in schools must be enforced if the state hopes to make a dent in transmission among children, which will eventually spread to other family members like the common cold and flu during the school year.

“We need to approach our protection of our children with all options on the table. You know, we put seatbelts on or we give them measles vaccines, or we put sunscreen on them,” Gaudet said. “The adults need to get together and make the right decisions.”

State health leaders discussed the possibility of a surge in cases on the pediatric side Wednesday.

Jim Craig, senior deputy and director of the Office of Health Protection, said Children’s of Mississippi administrative staff had conversations with federal partners on how they can help provide more resources to the state’s only children’s hospital.

“As far as surge ICU [for pediatric patients], it’s the same problem we have in the adults. It’s making sure we have enough staffing. We believe we have enough beds if we just have enough staffing,” Craig said.

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