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Mississippi, with no ICU beds left, turns parking garage into COVID hospital

Officials on Wednesday said the field hospital should be open by Friday in the parking garage at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.

JACKSON, Miss — The largest hospital in Mississippi is clearing out the bottom floor of its parking garage to build a 50-bed field hospital to treat COVID-19 patients as cases continue to surge in the state.

The federal government is sending medical professionals to help the hospital. Many hospitals face a crunch for space and staffing, and Mississippi has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the nation.

Officials on Wednesday said the field hospital should be open by Friday in the parking garage at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. That will help the influx of patients, including those transferred from smaller hospitals.

Earlier this week, the head of the University Medical Center, Dr. LouAnn Woodward, said that there were no available ICU beds in Mississippi as of Monday morning. 

“That means hospitals across the state may not be able to provide the level of care needed to you or your loved ones. Not just for COVID-19 but for any emergency care,” Woodward wrote on Twitter.

Mississippi Health Officer Thomas Dobbs echoed Woodward’s statements, saying that there were zero ICU beds available at level 1-3 hospitals in the state, and there were more than 200 patients waiting in emergency rooms for an ICU room.

Mississippi is approaching its record number of COVID-19 hospitalizations as the virus continues spreading rapidly. The state’s department of health reported on Tuesday that 1,410 patients with confirmed cases were in Mississippi hospitals Monday. That number declined slightly to 1,378 on Tuesday. Mississippi’s highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations for a single day was 1,444 on Jan. 4, before vaccines against the virus were widely available.

Woodward says vaccination is the way to get the surge of cases under control.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.