Legislature Struggles With COVID-19 Outbreak, Jackson Drive-Through Finally Opens

A Madison drive-through worker helps guide people through the vaccination process. The site is one of 19 drive-through clinics in the state. Photo courtesy MSDH

A Madison drive-through worker helps guide people through the vaccination process. The site is one of 19 drive-through clinics in the state. Photo courtesy MSDH

The Mississippi Legislature is grappling with yet another outbreak among its members, only a few short weeks into the 2021 session. Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann announced on Thursday that two members of the Senate have tested positive for COVID-19. Earlier, House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, acknowledged that one member of the House tested positive. An unknown number of lawmakers across both chambers are now in isolation after exposure to their infected colleagues.

This morning, the House passed a resolution allowing for virtual quorum, meaning legislators may Zoom in to discuss bills and pass legislation, something not allowed during typical sessions. The measure is a compromise to the severity of the virus—repeatedly, Hosemann, who leads the Senate, has pushed for a full delay to the session.

Jackson proper finally has a drive-through vaccination clinic, located at Smith-Wills Stadium. Until now, residents of Hinds County had to travel to Trustmark Park in Pearl for their closest drive-through clinic.

Senior Deputy and Director of Health Protection Jim Craig, of the Mississippi State Department of Health, spoke about the difficulties of providing vaccination coverage across the state. “We would like to increase geography, and we’re going to work with some partners to try to help do that, but with the limited doses that are available in our state, there’s really just no way to have vaccine available everywhere in the state at the same time,” he said.

Of the 392,225 doses of vaccine allotted to the state thus far, 152,374 have been administered. From these, 138,750 have been first-round doses with 13,595 doses as second rounds to complete the vaccination process. Mississippi’s population is 2,976,149, meaning the state’s current vaccination rate stands at 4.2%.

“This weekend, we celebrated 100,000 COVID shots in arms, starting on December 14th. Today, we can celebrate 150,000 COVID shots in arms,” Gov. Tate Reeves said via Facebook. “Things are moving quickly and much more smoothly! We’ll use every vaccine that we get! Mississippi is ready to be DONE with COVID—Amen?”

MSDH reported 201 outbreaks among long-term care facilities today, a minor decrease from the past month. Staffing insufficiencies on the part of corporate partners Walgreens and CVS had previously delayed getting vaccines in the arms of some of Mississippi’s most vulnerable residents.

The latest seven-day average for COVID-19 cases stands at 1,854, while today’s report showed 2,050 new cases and 45 deaths. Previous reports indicated 30 deaths for Jan. 20 and 64 deaths for Jan. 19. Hospital and intensive-care utilization were trending slightly down—a hopeful sign that pressure on health-care workers will decrease as more Mississippians receive vaccinations.

“Hospital challenges not over—but heading in the right direction,” State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs tweeted on Jan. 19. “The fact that you don't hear much about the stresses hospitals, docs, nurses, etc. have faced—a testament to their perseverance and commitment,” he said.

Vaccination appointments are available online here. Appointments, and inquiries may also be made over the phone at 877-978-6453 and 601-965-4071.

Read the JFP’s coverage of COVID-19 at jacksonfreepress.com/covid19. Get more details on preventive measures here. Email Reporting Fellow Julian Mills at julian@jacksonfreepress.com.


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