The Mississippi State Department of Health sounded an alarm Tuesday as COVID-19 case in the state have crept up about 25% in the past five days.
On Thursday, 161 people were hospitalized with the virus across Mississippi hospitals. By Monday, that number increased to 201. However, intensive care unit patients and those needing ventilators did not shift significantly in that time.
A Tuesday tweet from the department called the spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations a "concerning development," which "emphasizes the need for protective steps, especially vaccination, over the coming weeks."
For the past few weeks, coronavirus-related hospitalizations have remained around the 150s, a number far lower than what was seen when the Delta variant surged through the state in late summer and early fall, driving hospitalizations to about 1,000 patients.
'Probably an upswing': COVID cases to rise during the holiday season, Mississippi health official says
However, even before Thanksgiving, state health officials warned coronavirus cases would increase in the state if people did not get vaccinated and neglected to wear masks when traveling or gathering in largely unvaccinated groups.
“We got the holidays coming up, and it’s the same sort of process we faced last year,” State Epidemiologist Paul Byers said a few weeks before Thanksgiving. “We can do something this time. Let’s please, especially if you’re going to be around people who are vulnerable, please get vaccinated before the holidays.”
Mississippi has maintained a lower-than-average vaccination rate compared to the rest of the nation. As of Tuesday afternoon, the Magnolia State hosted a fully vaccinated rate of 44%.
On Monday, the health department announced Mississippi's county health departments are now offering booster shots for eligible residents 18 and older. About 260,000 residents have gotten the booster dose.
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This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Miss. health department says rise COVID hospitalizations 'concerning'