- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 30, 2020

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi reported more than 3,000 new coronavirus cases Wednesday, a single-day high in the state. Health officials warned that they expect worse to come, partly because of holiday gatherings.

The leader of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Dr. LouAnn Woodward, said the state has had large numbers of coronavirus deaths lately, and the virus is causing a peak in hospitalization across the state.

“Do we think we have hit our ultimate high in all of these numbers? Sadly, we don’t,” Woodward said during a news conference.

Mississippi hit the new record after already having several days in December with more than 2,000 new cases. The state epidemiologist, Dr. Paul Byers, urged people to avoid large social gatherings for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

“We are in, still, the worst time that we have seen so far in this pandemic,” Byers said during a separate news conference. “We are not seeing any signs, really, that things are slowing down. We are still in the middle of the holidays. I would encourage everybody - please, for New Year’s, keep it small, keep it nuclear.”

Byers said that by Wednesday, Mississippi had distributed about 120,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, roughly 90% of what the state has received.

“We’re working on getting those other doses out the door, even as we speak,” Byers said.

At least 17,000 vaccinations have been administered, he said.

The Health Department announced Wednesday that it is working with the University of Mississippi Medical Center to open 18 drive-thru sites to give COVID-19 vaccinations to health care workers, including people who work in administrative or support jobs in clinics and hospitals. The sites will start opening Monday, and appointments are required. The department’s website shows which counties will have sites open on certain days.

Mississippi National Guard members and public health nurses will administer the vaccinations at the drive-thru sites, said Jim Craig, the state Health Department’s director of health protection.

The state is following recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in setting priorities for the order of vaccinating people. Health care workers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities are first. The state is coordinating with pharmacy chain stores Walgreens and CVS to vaccinate people in long-term care facilities.

Mississippi has about 200,000 health care workers and about 60,000 residents and staff in long-term care facilities.

“I would love to see … every health care worker in Mississippi to have that opportunity to get the COVID vaccine during the month of January,” Craig said.

The state Health Department reported Wednesday that Mississippi had 3,023 new confirmed cases of the virus as of Tuesday evening. The department also reported 29 new deaths, saying that they occurred between Dec. 22 and Tuesday. The state has reported 213,055 cases of the virus and 4,747 deaths from it since the start of the pandemic.


Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

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