Mississippi Doc on COVID Surge: 'We Have Failed to Use the Tools We Have'

Dr. LouAnn Woodward, the chief executive of Mississippi's largest medical center, criticized her state's response to COVID-19 during a Tuesday speech, saying the people of Mississippi have "failed to use the tools that we have to protect ourselves, to protect our families, to protect our children, and to protect our state."

The chief executive of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Woodward has been vocal about taking all the recommended precautions against spreading COVID-19.

She has advocated for people getting vaccinations and wearing masks, but on Tuesday she said Mississippians have "failed to respond in a unified way to a common threat."

Woodward delivered the speech during the opening of a field hospital tent set up with ICU beds in the parking lot at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. The tent is the second of its kind at the hospital and was erected due to the overflow of patients caused by the surge of COVID patients.

National disaster relief organization Samaritan's Purse is responsible for staffing and funding the field hospital. The tent will treat some of the patients who are most ill from COVID-19 from the University of Mississippi Medical Center, which is the state's only Level 1 trauma center.

Mississippi health workers
The head of Mississippi’s largest medical center has called on the people of her state to do more to fight against the spread of COVID-19 as her hospital opens a second auxiliary tent to handle the overflow of patients. Above, medical workers with Delta Health Center prepare to vaccinate people on April 29, 2021, in Leland, Mississippi. Getty

"You know, Samaritan's Purse right now is responding to a disaster in Haiti—a natural disaster in Haiti. But the response that they are responding to here in Mississippi today is a disaster of our own making," Woodward said during her remarks Tuesday.

"We as a state, as a collective, have failed to respond in a unified way to a common threat," she continued. "We have failed to use the tools that we have to protect ourselves, to protect our families, to protect our children, and to protect our state."

Woodward spoke of how last year everyone hoped for a vaccine against the virus. Now, she said, "we have that tool, and we have not appropriately and fully used it. This is where we are. We do not have to be here, but this is where we are."

On Sunday, Woodard tweeted about how the state's hospitals were overtaxed.

For goodness sake, Mississippi: Get your shot! Wear a mask! We are OUT OF BEDS! @the_dr_j @_jwilson @TCBPubHealth https://t.co/HRMxrCWtiV

— LouAnn Woodward M.D. (@LAWoodwardMD) August 15, 2021

Mississippi is one of the least vaccinated states in the country and its COVID-19 case numbers have doubled in the past two weeks. In the process, the state set new records for hospitalizations over all previous surges of the virus since the pandemic first hit more than a year ago.

Last week, the University of Mississippi Medical Center set up its first auxiliary emergency field hospital with staff provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Woodward said recently that a third tent will also soon be placed near the center for COVID patients to receive monoclonal antibody treatment.

On Tuesday, she placed a large deal of responsibility on the citizens of Mississippi and pleaded with them to take more steps in making the entire state safer.

"Our healthcare workforce all across the state is traumatized. We are in trouble," Woodward said. "I implore you, if you have not yet gotten vaccinated, please do so right away. It is the right thing to do for yourself, for your family, for our children all across the state of Mississippi, and for the future of our state."

"We do not need any mandates to do the right thing," she added. "This is a decision each individual can make."