LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor of University of Mississippi Medical Center said that this issue was not about limiting anyone’s freedom to make their own decisions. “Things do not happen as they should, and we cannot pretend that they are normal. The numbers show that we are fooling ourselves, and the numbers are showing us that what we are doing is not working.” Mississippi’s July 4th average for daily new cases was 734. This represents a 135 percent increase over the month prior. The state saw 686 confirmed hospitalizations on Wednesday, an increase of 67 percent over a month ago. Due to the increased patient numbers, there has been a shortage of beds and ambulance diversions in the state. This led to the health department ordering six counties in Central Mississippi to restrict elective procedures. Thomas Dobbs, the State Health Officer, stated that five of the state’s most important medical centers had no available ICU beds as at Wednesday. Four other hospitals had less then five percent availability and three had less than 10 percent. “We’ve been discussing this and saying it’s coming. Dobbs stated that it is not only here but it will get worse. “Our largest medical institutions, which take care our sickest patients, don’t have the capacity to care for additional people. Hospitals must now take action to combat reckless social behavior. Elective surgery in Hinds and Rankin, Madison and Forrest, Jones, and Washington will be restricted effective Wednesday, July 20, through 20. At a meeting of trauma providers, health officials said Thursday that there will be more counties. Gov. Tate Reeves stated Wednesday that a large part of the rapid change was due to hospitals not following the order to reserve 25% capacity for COVID-19 patient. Mississippi is among the few states that have proactively renewed elective procedure bans. It currently has the third highest per capita hospitalization rate, behind Texas and Arizona. According to Dr. Alan Jones (hospital’s vice chancellor of clinical affairs), UMMC has turned away COVID-19 patients transferred from other hospitals as well as patients with trauma and heart conditions. Jones stated that UMMC is the only state hospital that provides major trauma care and the only state hospital that offers transplant care. These aren’t elective procedures, they save lives and we will not be able continue to follow this path. Dobbs stated that while teaching children is not the hardest part of reopening schools in a month, it will be limiting recreational activities among youth. He said, “We can safely educate children, but it’s not possible if we live in a society of reckless abandon, where it’s more important for our kids to go to a bar and break the rules than to have them go to school, our hospitals to be able take care of us, or our businesses to be able grow.” Dr. Anita Henderson is the president-elect of American Academy of Pediatrics Mississippi Chapter. She said that school districts are currently discussing ways to restrict children’s movements when classes resume. She suggested methods like moving teachers between classrooms, rather than students, and encouraging classes outside. Henderson stated that while we are aware of the risk and children will get sick, our goal is to reduce that risk. The state is also at the start of hurricane season. Dr. Jonathan Wilson, incident manager for UMMC, stated that Mississippi and other neighboring states don’t have the resources necessary to deal with an additional major catastrophe during the pandemic. He stated that hospital capacity had already been exhausted. “You can only surge up to a point and then you start to surge into the parking lot where your going to begin taking care of patients. That’s the scenario we’d be looking for if these trends continue and there’s a major hurricane,” he said. Woodward and others reiterated the three main mitigation guidelines: wearing masks, avoiding gatherings and washing their hands. Dobbs expressed frustration at Mississippians not following these guidelines. He said, “There was this mythical idea in people’s heads, that was never expressed. That we’re going shut it down for 3 weeks and then everything will be normal.” He said, “We’ve sacrificed a lot over those three weeks, but then we’ve given everything back to them all.” Erica Hensley was a contributor to this report.