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COVID-19 Cases Already Seen in Local Schools; Hospitals Taxed

Schools in Oxford and Lafayette County have only been open for a few days but are already reporting cases of COVID-19 among students and faculty.

The Mississippi State Department of Health released its first report of COVID-19 cases in K-12 schools for the new school year on Tuesday.

From Aug. 2-6, Oxford High School had the highest number of cases last week with 14 students and 1-5 teachers testing positive. If a school reports five or fewer cases, MSDH shows the number of new cases as “1-5” to “protect the identity” of the student or teacher.

No cases have been reported at any of the other Oxford schools through Aug. 6.

In the Lafayette County School District, at least one but not more than five teachers tested positive among the District auxiliary staff at Lafayette Lower Elementary and Lafayette High schools.

At least one but not more than five students tested positive at Lafayette Lower Elementary and Lafayette Middle School Lafayette Upper. Nine students tested positive at Lafayette High School.

In both districts combined, about 182 students and six teachers started the new school year being quarantined.

However, missing from the MSDH’s website Tuesday was its daily interactive hospitalization charts that showed how many COVID-19 patients were in a particular hospital and in the ICU.

“Due to the extreme shortage of intensive care beds in the state, allocation of hospital beds has been centralized under MSDH’s COVID-19 System of Care plan. Data reporting on hospital beds is being revised to work with new data sources,” the website states.

The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations has risen sharply over the last two weeks with some hospitals having no staffed ICU beds available.

On Monday, the MSDH reported almost 7,000 new cases across the state from Friday-Sunday and another 3,488 on Tuesday. Sixty-four COVID-19-related deaths were reported in the state since Friday.

The delta variant has become the dominant strain of COVID-19 in Mississippi.

Bill Henning, CEO and administrator of Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi, said on Tuesday that the majority of severely ill and hospitalized COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated.

“We also encourage everyone who is eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine,” he said. “This small act can protect you and your family and greatly assist our tireless health care workers who have stayed in this fight and showed up for their community for over a year now.”

Henning did not report specific numbers because he said that the hospital capacity is fluid and changes frequently because patients are admitted and discharged throughout the day.

“So the number of available beds now may change by the time they’re reported,” he said in regard to reporting specific numbers of COVID-19 patients and available beds. “We also have the ability to make adjustments within the hospital and with staffing through surge planning, telemedicine resources and equipment to accommodate changing needs.”

Henning said he wants the public and patients to know that Baptist will continue to take care of them in the case of an emergency.

“We always have, and we will continue to make a way to care for our community,” he said. “However, we need the community’s help in reducing the load on our health care system.

“In an emergency situation, please do not delay and go to your nearest emergency department. If you are feeling generally unwell or want to get tested for COVID-19, schedule an appointment with your family physician, the Baptist Medical Group Internal Medicine Clinic or a local urgent care center.”

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