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Starting next week, Mississippi residents who are over the age of 75 will be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, Gov. Tate Reeves said. 

The following week, Mississippians who are over the age of 65 will have access to the vaccine, according to Reeves.

“We know that we cannot afford delays in protecting those who are at the greatest risk,” he said at a press conference on Monday. “We must focus on saving lives, and we know that those over the age of 65 are more vulnerable than those of us under 65.”

Starting next week, people who are 75 years or older will be eligible to receive the vaccine at vaccine drive-thru sites in the state or at private clinics. 174 private clinics in Mississippi have signed up to be vaccine locations, according to State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs.

COVID-19 vaccines have so far only been available for health care workers and long-term care residents and staff. The state has distributed vaccines to hospitals throughout the state, including to Rush Foundation Hospital and Anderson Regional Medical Center. CVS and Walgreens are distributing the vaccine to long-term care facilities in the state. 

Starting this week, Mississippi is also offering COVID-19 vaccines at 18 drive-thru locations across the state. Only people who work in health care settings can be vaccinated at these sites at this time. 

Health care workers include physicians, nurses, emergency medical services personnel, dietary and food staff and other individuals. Health care settings include acute care facilities, long-term acute care facilities, inpatient rehabilitation facilities, nursing homes, physicians’ offices and other locations. 

The Lauderdale County drive-thru site started providing vaccinations on Monday. Neshoba County also has a drive-thru site, which will start vaccinations on Tuesday, Jan. 5. Mississippians can schedule an appointment to get vaccinated at one of these locations at covidvaccine.umc.edu.

Dobbs and Reeves urged long-term care staff to get vaccinated. Dobbs said that long-term care residents contract the virus from employees.

“If you work in a long-term care facility, I urge you, I urge you to please take the necessary steps to get the vaccine,” Reeves said. 

The state’s vaccination rollout comes as Mississippi hospitals are being taxed. Reeves said the state had more patients in ICU beds at the end of last week than it had in any other period of the pandemic. 

In Lauderdale County, as of Sunday, none of the 159 staffed beds at Rush Foundation Hospital were available. 27 confirmed COVID-19 patients were in the hospital. 

One out of 34 total adult ICU beds were available at Rush on Sunday. Seven adult COVID-19 patients were in the ICU at the hospital.

As of Sunday, 16 out of 116 total staffed beds at Anderson Regional Medical Center were available. 35 confirmed COVID-19 patients were in the hospital.

Six out of 29 adult ICU beds were available at Anderson on Sunday. 10 adult COVID-19 patients were in the ICU at the hospital. 

Dobbs said he expects another surge following the holidays. 

“And this is also occurring when we have full ICU rooms,” he said. “Our hospitals are really overburdened.”

Mississippi reported 1,616 new cases of COVID-19 and 13 additional deaths on Monday, bringing the state’s totals to 223,677 cases and 4,884 COVID-19 related deaths.

Lauderdale County reported 43 new cases of COVID-19 and no additional deaths on Monday, bringing the county’s totals to 5,124 cases and and 171 COVID-19 related deaths. 

COVID-19 case and death numbers for local counties are listed below.

Clarke County: three new cases; 1,227 cases since March. No additional deaths; 59 total deaths since March.

Newton County: 10 new cases; 1,665 total cases. One additional death, which occurred between Dec. 30 and Jan. 2; 38 total deaths since March. 

Kemper County: No new cases; 675 total cases. No additional deaths; 19 total deaths since March.

Neshoba County: 12 new cases; 3,074 total cases. No additional deaths; 143 total deaths since March.

MSDH presumed 182,103 people have recovered from COVID-19. The department also reported that there are 235 ongoing outbreaks of COVID-19 in long-term-care facilities.

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