Seven children have been hospitalized in the intensive care unit in Mississippi where public health officials are warning that the Delta variant is fueling a surge in COVID cases statewide.
Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs told ABC News on Tuesday that of the seven children in the ICU, two of them are on ventilators.
‘Delta Surge – be careful,’ Dobbs tweeted on Tuesday.
Initially, Dobbs said that 12 children were in intensive care after contracting COVID-19, but that number was later revised to seven after a hospital corrected an earlier report.
A prisoner at the Bolivar County Correctional Facility reacts as he receives a COVID-19 vaccination administered by medical workers in Cleveland, Mississippi on April 28
Medical workers with Delta Health Center wait to vaccinate people at a pop-up vaccination clinic in this rural Delta community on April 27, 2021 in Hollandale, Mississippi. Mississippi has the lowest vaccination rate in the country with just one out of three adults fully inoculated
‘Please be safe and if you are 12 or older – please protect yourself,’ he said.
Mississippi has the lowest vaccination rate in the country.
With just 33.4 percent of residents fully vaccinated, COVID-19 infections have spiked in Mississippi by 57 percent from an average of 192 cases recorded on June 28 to an average of 303 per day on July 12.
Children are far less likely than adults to get seriously ill from COVID-19, yet they represent nearly 14 percent of the nation’s coronavirus cases.
The state has seen a rise in the number of hospitalizations in recent weeks
COVID-19 infections have spiked in Mississippi by 57 percent from an average of 192 cases recorded on June 28 to an average of 303 per day on July 12
Since the start of the pandemic, more than 325,000 Mississippians have contracted COVID-19. Nearly 7,500 have died
State health officials report nearly 3,000 new cases of COVID-19 in the last two weeks
At least 296 have died from COVID-19 in the United States alone, and more than 15,000 have been hospitalized, according to a tally by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
In May, the US authorized the use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to be used for children age 12 and up.
Moderna has said that its COVID-19 vaccine strongly protects kids as young as 12. The company aims to be next in line for FDA approval for use of the shot in children.
It is not clear how old the children who fell ill in Mississippi were or whether they were eligible for the vaccine.
The state has seen an alarming increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations in recent days.
On June 21, 91 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Mississippi. On Sunday, that number had risen to 228 people, according to health officials, who blame the Delta variant.
The variant has now become the predominant strain of coronavirus.
The uptick in cases has prompted the Mississippi State Department of Health to block comments on its Facebook posts that relate to COVID-19 because of a ‘rise of misinformation’ about the virus and vaccinations, a health official said.
‘The comments section of our Facebook page has increasingly come to be dominated by misinformation about COVID-19,’ state health department spokesperson Liz Sharlot said in a statement.
Sharlot said allowing the comments that ‘mislead the public about the safety, importance and effectiveness of vaccination’ is ‘directly contrary’ to the state’s public health mission, which includes encouraging members of the public to be vaccinated against the virus, which has been recently making a resurgence in the state.
Only about 31 percent of Mississippians have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, a statistic that ranks near the bottom of US states.
The Department of Health posts multiple times each day on its Facebook page about COVID-19.
Posts include information on numbers of new coronavirus cases in the state, details on pop-up vaccination clinics and transportation services to vaccination clinics for homebound residents.
Sharlot said the comments will be back when the department has ‘the resources to effectively curb misleading, harmful and off-topic commentary that disserves the public.’
Federal regulators have said the vaccines are safe and offer strong protection against contracting the potentially life-threatening disease.
Mississippi health officials announced on Friday that they are recommending that people 65 and older and those with chronic underlying medical conditions refrain from attending indoor mass social gatherings in the coming weeks because of a rising number of coronavirus cases in the state.
State officials have also advised in the last week that vulnerable people should avoid indoor mass gatherings whether or not they are vaccinated, through at least July 26, and that people who are not vaccinated should wear a mask when in public settings.
The number of COVID-19 cases has started to surge nationwide after months of decline, with the number of new cases per day doubling over the past three weeks.
Doctors and public health officials have said that the surge, in 43 out of the country’s 50 states, comes amid a rise in the Delta variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and stagnating vaccination numbers.
Health experts warn that the worrying increase in cases is linked to the Indian ‘Delta’ variant, which accounts for as many 97 percent of infections in some states.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data updated last week shows that the Delta variant, also known as B.1.617.2, makes up 51.7 percent of all new infections – making it the dominant form of the virus in the United States.
The Delta variant has been detected in all 50 states and accounts for more than 80 percent of new infections in Midwestern states such as Iowa, Kansas and Missouri, where vaccination rates are lagging.
In the United States, 59 percent of adults are fully vaccinated while 68 percent have at least one shot, according to CDC data.
Dr. Chris Pernell, a fellow at the American College of Preventative Medicine, called it a ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated’ in an interview with CNN on Tuesday.
‘This is primarily a pandemic of the unvaccinated. And we need to be very clear about that message,’ Dr. Pernell said.
She also hit out at states like Florida, Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Montana, Oklahoma, and Utah that have blocked COVID-19 vaccine requirements in schools.
‘To flat out prohibit COVID-19 vaccination is not in anyone’s best interest. When states make that move, they get in the way of good and effective public health,’ she said.