91 Percent of Mississippi Nursing Homes Have COVID Outbreaks, Largely Among Staff

A majority of Mississippi's nursing homes are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks.

According to the state's epidemiologist, 192 of 211 nursing homes in Mississippi are experiencing outbreaks, or about 91 percent. However, while residents are being affected, they are not the primary source of cases.

"The majority of the cases we're seeing are brought in by the staff," Dr. Paul Byers told local news station WAPT 16, "the infected staff who may become infected outside of the setting and then bring it back to residents."

Byers said it's largely because, despite caring for vulnerable populations, some nursing home staff members are not vaccinated. Byers referred to it as "one of the weak points that [the state has] had in long-term care settings" during the pandemic. Around 25 percent of nursing home staff still have not received a COVID-19 vaccine. An additional 13 percent are vaccinated but have yet to receive a booster.

"It's going to be important for not only the staff to be fully vaccinated," Byers said, "but to get a booster when they're eligible."

Mississippi Nurse
More than 190 nursing homes in Mississippi are experiencing outbreaks of the coronavirus. Above, medical workers with Delta Health Center wait to vaccinate people at a pop-up COVID-19 vaccination clinic in the rural Delta community of Hollandale, Mississippi, on April 27, 2021. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

In facilities with active outbreaks, 75 percent of staff and 88 percent of residents are fully vaccinated. Long-term care staff members in Mississippi who are unvaccinated are required to be tested for COVID-19 twice a week, which helps health officials identify outbreaks early.

"It helps us identify those people who may be infected and remove them, exclude them from the setting before transmission occurs," Byers said.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Mississippi has risen over the past two weeks from around 565 new cases per day on December 22 to 5,148 on Wednesday. The increase in cases have has not led to a large increase in deaths as it did with the Delta variant during the summer, however, Byers said.

"Any death is one too many, but we are encouraged by the fact that the residents are being protected by the vaccination and the boosters," he said.

Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 have increased from 228 on December 16 to 940 on Wednesday, according to the state Department of Health.

Overall, 48.9 percent of people in Mississippi are fully vaccinated, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.