Less than a week after Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves had ended his COVID-19 emergency, World Health Organization warns a new, potentially more dangerous variant of COVID-19 has emerged. In a statement yesterday, the WHO said South Africa first notified it of the variant, known as B.1.1..529 or the omicron variant, on Nov. 24.
“The variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are worrying. Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, compared to other (variants of concern),” the WHO said. “The number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces of South Africa.”
The current variant, the organization said, “has been detected faster than previous increases in infection, suggesting that this variant may have a growth advantage.” While the research on the omicron variant is still early, current evidence shows that it has significantly more mutations than previous variants, such as the delta variant, and that it may be more evasive to immune responses.
gov. Reeves allowed Mississippi’s COVID-19 emergency order, which he first issued on March 14, 2020, to expire on November 20, 2021. The order included the state’s COVID-19 System of Care Plan, which increased the flexibility of the medical system. in handling patient transfers.
“With more than 3,000,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine administered in Mississippi and with COVID-19 infections and resulting hospitalizations effectively managed, it is time to end the state of emergency in Mississippi,” tweeted. Governor Reeves on Nov. 11. “It expires on November 20.”
But some health professionals and leaders warn that Mississippi is facing a growing nursing shortage, which could cut the state by 500 acute care hospital beds during the winter months. Earlier this month, Mississippi Today reported on a Nov. 5 letter sent to the governor by chief nurses at 36 Mississippi hospitals.
“The shortfall is caused by losses in the nursing workforce due to burnout, fatigue and, increasingly, nurses who took travel nurse positions earning significantly higher wages and are now seeking to take time off,” the letter said.
But Governor Reeves has not responded to requests for a special session to address the nursing shortage. Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn and Senate Speaker Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann sent to the governor the draft of a bill intended to help alleviate the nursing shortage earlier in the fall.
Gov. Reeves initially planned to end the COVID-19 emergency measure in August 2021, but the rise of the Delta variant caused the collapse of much of the state hospital system, requiring federal and state aid to repair the battered infrastructure. strengthen.
After news of the rise of the ommicron variant broke, President Joe Biden ordered air travel between the US and South Africa in addition to seven other countries.
In its announcement about the arrival of the omicron variant, the WHO said people should “take steps to reduce their risk of COVID-19, including proven public health and social measures such as wearing well-fitting masks, hand hygiene, physical distancing, improving indoor ventilation, avoiding crowded areas and vaccinating.”
Good, brief overview of Omicron https://t.co/zGPNpPzDwB
— Thomas Dobbs (@TCBPubHealth) November 27, 2021
Mississippi still has one of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates, but Governor Tate Reeves is fighting with Attorney General Lynn Fitch to block Biden’s federal vaccine mandates in court. Fitch is challenging federal mandates for employees at companies with more than 100 employees and for health care workers. The issue is about government mandates; private companies of all sizes have the legal right to establish COVID-19 vaccination and safety policies to protect employees and those they interact with on the job.
After the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans temporarily blocked Biden’s employer mandate, Reeves celebrated Nov. 17, calling it “another victory for liberty and individual liberty” in a tweet.
“Another win for Mississippians! And another loss to Biden and federal reach! OSHA is suspending enforcement of the vaccine mandate,” Reeves wrote. But the courts can still uphold Biden’s mandates once the case is heard on the merits. The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected multiple attempts to block Biden’s mandates so far this year.
On November 23, Reeves also tweeted that “MS has been one of the Top 10 states in America for job recovery since the pandemic!” He listed reasons why Mississippi ranks 10th in job recovery since the start of the pandemic, including that the state “doesn’t force businesses to close” and “work(s) to protect lives AND livelihoods.”
Not mentioned in that tweet was the fact that Mississippi has the nation’s highest death rate from COVID-19, with more than 10,262 Mississippians having died since the start of the pandemic. Amid the summertime Delta variant surge, Mississippi surpassed early pandemic hot spots of New Jersey and New York in total pandemic deaths per capita.
Children 5 years and older are now eligible for vaccination, along with all adults. Many adults who were previously fully vaccinated are also eligible for a third COVID-19 vaccine booster dose, which could become an important tool in the fight against the emerging variant or other future mutations.
“Boosters are approved for all adults over the age of 18 six months after their vaccination and are available at 80,000 coast-to-coast sites,” Biden said yesterday. “They are safe, free and convenient. Get your booster shot now so you can enjoy this extra protection during the holidays. Second, for those who are not fully vaccinated, get vaccinated today.”
Biden said the rise of the ommicron variant “has made it clearer than ever why this pandemic won’t end until we have global vaccinations.”
For more information about COVID-19 and vaccines in Mississippi, visit msdh.ms.gov/covid-19.