JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) — Although the Mississippi State Department of Health has reported more than 86,000 cases of COVID-19 in the past two weeks, Dr. Mark Horne that he believes there is much more community transmission in all of Mississippi than that number of cases reflect.
Horne, former president of the Mississippi State Medical Association, said some of it comes from people taking tests at home when they’re feeling sick.
Those who test positive through home testing are not required to notify MSDH.
In addition, some may never get tested because they don’t feel sick, especially since Omicron has been shown to cause milder symptoms than the Delta variant.
“Although it is less, a smaller percentage are hospitalized. The number of people getting infected is staggering, far worse than anything we’ve seen so far. So that we still have a lot of hospitalizations, hospitalizations coming up, and we think we’re likely to meet or exceed those with Delta,” Horne said.[That’s] not because the disease is much worse, it’s just that there is so much more.”
Data from MSDH indicates that 1,365 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Thursday.
During the Delta wave, total hospitalizations peaked at 1,667.
Horne estimates that about three percent of Omicron cases will lead to hospitalization, compared to eight percent of Delta variant cases.
That means an estimated 2,500 Mississippians have yet to be hospitalized due to cases reported this month alone, a looming wave that will hit a hospital system already weakened and staffed by previous pandemic waves.
“We’re all hoping that what we’re seeing in other parts of the world will repeat itself here, in terms of Omicron as a really fast, really intense problem that then fades in the same way,” Horne said.
Earlier this week, UMMC Associate Vice Chancellor for Clinical Affairs Dr. Alan Jones that current models suggest Omicron will peak in Mississippi in the first week of February.
He also offered insight into what the next variant could bring.
“If you think about the natural evolution of the way these things happen, and if history guides us, this virus will continue to mutate to become more contagious, but it will become less and less virulent and cause less and less serious illness. to the point where it will be almost like a common cold,” Jones said.
Once that happens, Jones said some of the more extreme measures taken to protect against infection will no longer be necessary.
“It just becomes a normal part of our lives. Whether that’s another year or three years, I don’t think anyone really knows,” Jones said. “But the encouraging thing about this variant is that it seems like that trajectory — we went down that trajectory.”
Horne said he believes the state has over-tested individuals in some cases because of labor requirements.
“I implore all employers in the state not to demand a negative test to return to work, don’t do it. It’s no use. That’s right, it won’t do you any good, said Horne. “If you have an employee who is absent because they are infected, and they have completed their isolation and they have no symptoms, don’t demand a negative test for him to return to work. It doesn’t help you.”
Horne said the current CDC guideline to isolate for at least five days after a positive test is the bare minimum someone should isolate.
They should not return unless symptoms abate, and those who do return must wear their masks for days on end.
The goal, Horne said, is to eventually reduce the spread, which in turn will reduce hospitalizations and provide relief to health workers burned out by the pandemic.
Those people who are nurses, respiratory therapists, emergency room workers and support staff, they need your support, they need your help to reduce the workload in the hospital so that we can take care of people,” Horne said. “Remember that there are other ways to get seriously injured besides COVID.”
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