The number of Mississippians being treated in hospitals for coronavirus surpassed that of neighboring Louisiana for the first time on Thursday, despite Mississippi having recorded only a third the number of infections compared to the Bayou State.
There were 1,088 hospitalized Mississippi residents battling coronavirus in the state Thursday, up from 890 on Wednesday, 92 of whom were on ventilators — the highest number recorded so far.
That’s compared to 884 patients in Louis-iana, 107 of whom were on ventilators.
Mississippi has more ill residents in need of hospital treatment than Louisiana, but there are only about a third the number of reported cases in the Magnolia State. Since March 11, health officials have recorded 12,222 infections in Mississippi compared to 36,504 in Louisiana.
The reported death toll is much lower in Mississippi.
Since the outbreak began, 580 Mississippians have died, compared to 2,506 COVID-19 deaths reported in Louisiana.
Health officials in Louisiana have tested about double the number of residents as Mississippi for coronavirus at 305,381 or about 6% of the state population.
Health officials in Mississippi ramped up the availability of screening as resources became more widely available. They encouraged anybody experiencing any symptoms or who has possibly been exposed to coronavirus to seek testing in an attempt to meet White House guidelines on reopening the economy.
Officials had tested more than 125,000 Mississippians between public and commercial labs, or about 4% of the state’s population, by Thursday afternoon.
State health officials had hoped to meet that benchmark by the end of May but now expect to greatly exceed it.
State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs repeatedly emphasized the importance of widespread testing in Mississippi and said it will be the key to reopening the economy.
He also announced a health department plan in recent weeks to test every individual who lives or works in a nursing home or long-term care facility, noting that most of the deaths recorded in Mississippi on any given day tend to be among people in that population. The plan will be carried out over a two-week period.
Dobbs said the number of patients who arrive at the emergency room with severe symptoms of coronavirus across hospitals statewide has steadily declined in recent weeks despite a slight uptick in the number of ICU patients who require ventilation.
The State Department of Health is recruiting health care workers and people with degrees in scientific disciplines to form a response team to perform testing, tracking and contact tracing of coronavirus patients in anticipation of a second wave of illness toward the end of summer and into the fall.
“We have made sacrifices for weeks and months on end,” Gov. Tate Reeves said Wednesday. “We have to continue to be vigilant, we have to continue to make sacrifices, we have to continue to help our family and our neighbors.”