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A medical worker examines a nose swab taken from a patient at Laurel’s mobile COVID-19 testing site.

 

The Omicron variant of COVID-19 is responsible for all recent cases in Mississippi, with no cases of Delta among samples, state Department of Health officials announced Tuesday.

As the Omicron variant is highly contagious, the demand for testing has exploded across the state and nation, leading to a shortage in rapid antigen testing, they said.

“The Omicron variant of COVID-19 is putting Mississippians into the hospital at a rapid rate,” MSDH reported.

As of Monday, more than 240 patients are in intensive-care units across the state with confirmed COVID cases, and 93 of them were on ventilators as of Jan. 10.

“Vaccination, and especially getting a booster dose when you're eligible, is the best way to reduce the severity of illness and significantly lower the risk of hospitalization and death,” MSDH officials said in a press release.

Those in need of testing through local health departments are encouraged to schedule an appointment online through the MSDH, but availability is limited. Currently, there are appointments available on Thursday (today) for COVID tests at the Jones County Health Department, but no more available through Jan. 21.

As cases have increased, MSDH State Health Officer Dr. Paul Byers issued an order for hospitals to begin a COVID Limited System of Care Plan, due to the current COVID-19 wave and ICU availability. This will remain in effect until Jan. 23.

“All Mississippi hospitals must participate in the plan to allow the most critically ill patients to be transferred for care while not overburdening any hospital,” MSDH announced Tuesday. “This approach is more focused than the prior order because it only includes situations such as heart attacks, strokes, immediate neurosurgical intervention (such as a severe car accident), transplant patients with complications and ventilated patients at a hospital without an ICU (respiratory therapy or a ventilator).”

In Jones County, the shortage is noticeable, as a free rapid-testing clinic that South Central Regional Medical Center opened last week was closed Monday due to the shortage of testing supplies. The center was opened to provide testing availability every day from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. but due to the recent demand for testing and spread of the Omicron variant, had to close.

“Due to national supply-chain shortages in COVID-19 testing, the South Central COVID-19 Testing Clinic at 424 S. 13th Ave. is closed until further notice,” SCRMC stated in a press release. “Rapid COVID-19 testing is available within South Central Clinic System. Two facilities offer walk-in testing, Ellisville Medical Clinic and South Central Urgent Care.”

Patients looking for testing can visit Ellisville Medical Clinic or South Central Urgent Care in Laurel. Ellisville Medical Clinic is open is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and South Central Urgent Care is open from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

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