“Wear a damn mask”, says UMMC.

JACKSON, Mississippi – The University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) has strong words for Mississippians amid the coronavirus pandemic.

UMMC Vice Chancellor Dr. LouAnn Woodward shared a graphic on Twitter yesterday that details several ways the public can help the state and its hospitals reduce the number of COVID-19 cases. “Wear a damn mask” are the first words on the graphic, followed by “Wash your hands. It is not a big deal. It is not political. Just do it!”

The graphic goes on to outline points on social distancing and preventing the spread of the virus. It also warns that people in the 18-29 age range are not immune to the virus and are, in fact, the age group experiencing the fastest growth of cases. The final point explains that the growing lack of hospital beds will not only impact COVID patients, but every person who needs medical care during the pandemic.

These comments come after the recent spike in cases threatens to overwhelm UMMC and other hospitals across the state. Governor Tate Reeves, who has been reluctant to initiate a statewide lockdown in any but the most ravaged counties of the state, spoke about the situation at a news conference this week. He told the crowd that the number of hospitalized COVID patients in Mississippi has jumped 55% since the first of July, estimating that 40% of all ICU patients in the state have tested positive for the virus.

“Our hospital system is stretched to the point of pain. We’ve added more than 340 patients in less than three weeks”, Reeves explained, before amending his statement to, “in less than twenty days”.

The Mississippi State Department of Health has closely monitored the outbreak of respiratory illnesses caused by COVID-19 since the first confirmed case in the state, and the agency keeps a running total of the current case numbers on its website. Yesterday, the MSDH confirmed that Mississippi has averaged 1500 new coronavirus cases each day this week, reporting 1,610 new cases and 28 new deaths on that day alone. The MSDH website also keeps a running total of coronavirus outbreaks in longterm care facilities (defined as one or more employees or patients testing positive within that facility), which totaled at 183 yesterday evening.

State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs, who is a member of the Mississippi State Medical Association and the Infectious Diseases Society of America, shared Dr. Woodward’s stern warning on Twitter yesterday with his own comments, which read, “Strong statements from a system under strain. Make sure the care is there when you need it!”

As of July 22nd, only 2, 021 hospital beds were available in Mississippi. The state is home to nearly three million residents.

Aleigh Farris

Aleigh Farris is a writer, performer, and small business owner from Tupelo, Mississippi. You can hear her work on the upcoming podcasts Radio Analekta and Once Shattered.

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