Confirmed coronavirus infections soared Thursday morning to 485 and five deaths, up 108 from Wednesday evening in the deadliest day Mississippi has experienced since the pandemic outbreak in January.
State health officials also confirmed Mississippi's sixth death from the virus on thursday morning, a Rankin County male age 80-85 with underlying conditions who died while hospitalized.
The outbreak is ramping up and stretching hospitals and medical clinics thin in terms of personal protective equipment and other necessary medical items and shutting down entire cities across the country.
Healthcare officials have reported the looting of critical protective equipment at Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center and the hospital is receiving donations of sanitary and protective items from local schools and community organizations.
Mississippi State Department of Health officials confirmed four deaths Wednesday — two throughout the day and two Wednesday night.
The MSDH public health lab has the capacity to test up to 200 samples each day and touts 24 hour turnaround times, but patients and providers at the local level report wait times of over a week amid a depletion of critical healthcare resources and an apparent testing bottleneck at the state level.
The first death, a Hancock County man in his 60s with underlying health conditions, was reported last week. He died in a Louisiana hospital. In the second death, a 90-year-old Woodville man died in a Baton Rouge hospital Saturday. In the third death, a Holmes County man in his 60s with underlying health conditions died in a hospital Tuesday. The virus killed a Webster County man in his late 60s Wednesday, the fourth death statewide. And a fifth death also came Wednesday after a Tunica County woman in her late 70s died in a long-term care facility.
Confirmed infections increased to 12 in Pike County Thursday morning, an increase of two from Wednesday afternoon.
Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center opened a drive-through cough and fever clinic for rapid screening and testing at 1506 Harrison Ave. earlier this week.
Nearby Franklin (2), Lawrence (5), Lincoln (6) and Walthall (4) counties recorded increased numbers of confirmed infections Wednesday morning.
Infections in Wilkinson County increased while the number of infections in nearby Franklin and Amite counties dropped, which could indicate a spike in infections in Wilkinson County or it could mean investigators with the State Department of Health determined more accurate information about patients’ counties of residence.
The MSDH clarified that the number of confirmed infections in each county would be updated as doctors investigate individual cases.
DeSoto County saw its number of infections climb to 49 Thursday morning. Residents of DeSoto County were among the first confirmed infections in the state after an outbreak in neighboring Shelby County, Tenn., exposed several residents earlier this month.
The Jackson metropolitan area and the coastal counties are experiencing seemingly higher rates of transmission, with 43 confirmed cases in Hinds County, 21 in Madison County, 23 in Rankin County and 31 in Harrison County.
It’s not clear if rates of transmission are actually higher in those areas compared to others with lower numbers of confirmed infections or if those areas have developed heightened access to testing.
In neighboring Louisiana, the number of confirmed infections soared Wednesday evening to 1,795 and 65 deaths. 491 patients were hospitalized, 163 of whom were on ventilators in Intensive Care Units. 11,451 people had been tested.
La. Gov. John Bel Edwards expressed concern that the state medical system would soon be completely overwhelmed, with one of the largest outbreaks nationwide occurring in and around New Orleans. Orleans Parish accounts for 827 confirmed infections and 37 deaths.
Neighboring Washington Parish La., has confirmed four infections and one death and Tangipahoa Parish has confirmed five cases and no deaths.
This story will be updated.