Officials in Mississippi are bracing for a potential "failure" of the state's hospital system as beds quickly fill up amid the spread of COVID-19 and the delta variant.
With the state running short on available hospital beds, officials have moved to open a 50-bed field hospital in a parking garage of the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) in Jackson.
According to the Clarion-Ledger, the makeshift hospital will provide "a mixture of inpatient and outpatient services" and offer as a resource for hospitals across the state. It's slated to open Friday.
In the past three weeks, the state has seen the number of people hospitalized with the virus skyrocket. There are currently 1,410 people hospitalized in the state with a confirmed COVID-19 infection — an increase of about 1,000 patients since July 20.
The current surge in hospital resource use is arguably worse than the surge the state faced in the winter months. There are currently more patients in the ICU and on ventilators than at any other point in the pandemic.
During a press conference on Wednesday, UMMC's associate vice chancellor for clinical affairs Alan Jones said that the state's hospital system was teetering on the brink of collapse.
"Since the pandemic began, I think the thing that hospitals have feared the most is total failure of the hospital system," Jones said, according to the Washington Post. "And if we track back a week or so when we look at the case positivity rate, the rate of new cases, the rate of hospitalizations … if we continue that trajectory within the next five to seven to 10 days, I think we're going to see failure of the hospital system in Mississippi."
The current nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases is primarily affecting those who have chosen not to get vaccinated. According to Bloomberg, Mississippi has the lowest vaccination rate of any state in the country, having distributed enough vaccines to cover just 39% of residents.
Officials with UMMC said Wednesday that increased vaccinations would be key to bringing the current surge under control, calling the new field hospital a "Band-Aid."
"The big solution is, let's get this surge under control, and let's get the spread of this virus under control," UMCC head Dr. LouAnn Woodward said, according to the Associated Press. "And the way that we do that is by getting people vaccinated."