As cases of the novel coronavirus continue to surge in parts of the U.S., some states are finally making moves to enforce safety precautions that aim to stop the spread of COVID-19. In Mississippi, state officials announced Thursday that only seven ICU beds were available in the entire state as a result of its COVID-19 fourth wave. Conditions in the state are increasingly dire and as a result, Mississippi's top health official threatened jail time for people diagnosed with COVID-19 who don't isolate themselves in their homes, NBC News reported.
Under an isolation order issued by State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs Friday, "all persons residing in Mississippi must immediately home-isolate on first knowledge of infection with COVID-19.” Failure to follow the order or listen to health officers could not only result in fines up to $500 but jail time, including six months behind bars. Additionally, the order notes that where a life-threatening disease is involved in a refusal to obey, violators could face a fine of up to $5,000 and possibly five years in jail.
The new order says COVID-19 patients must remain at home or an appropriate "residential location" for at least 10 days without contacting others, regardless of whether or not they are fully vaccinated.
“A negative test for COVID-19 is not required to end isolation at the end of 10 days, but you must be fever free for at least 24 hours with improvement of other symptoms,” the order said.
The order follows recent reports of over 5,000 new cases and more than 50 deaths as a result of COVID-19 in the state. The state recorded its highest average since the beginning of the pandemic on Thursday, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is currently going through its highest peak of COVID-19 cases with cases in the thousands, compared to just double digits and hundreds in June.
According to state epidemiologist Paul Byers, Mississippi has the highest number of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents in the nation. "These numbers are staggering, guys," he said during a weekly Mississippi pandemic update. Other states with a similar-size population have reported approximately one-fifth of its average.
Mississippi is one of the least vaccinated states in the country. At this time only 37% of the population is fully vaccinated, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
As schools open statewide the state has struggled even harder to contain the virus, with at least 20,000 students having to be quarantined after the first week of school, NBC News reported.
As the state fights to manage its COVID-19 cases, officials are not only urging individuals who are infected to stay home and isolate but not take unauthorized medications including ivermectin, a horse dewormer, in an attempt to treat COVID-19 at home.
“At least 70% of the recent [poison control] calls have been related to ingestion of livestock or animal formulations of ivermectin purchased at livestock supply centers,” a letter from the Mississippi Department of Health to to the MS Health Alert Network on Friday said. It warned health professionals of the spike in poisonings from individuals digesting ivermectin.
“Animal drugs are highly concentrated for large animals and can be highly toxic in humans,” the letter said. “Patients should be advised to not take any medications intended to treat animals and should be instructed to only take ivermectin as prescribed by their physician.”
According to data compiled by The New York Times, at least 185 new coronavirus deaths and 40,573 new cases were reported in the U.S. on Monday. The past week has seen an average of 149,675 cases per day, an increase of 36% from the average two weeks earlier. Data also shows that Mississippi leads the country in the number of cases per 100,000 residents, with 120 compared to an average of 45 nationwide.