The Mississippi State Department of Health hosted another episode of COVID and You on their Facebook page, Thursday. State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs was joined by State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers to talk about the recent surge in cases in Mississippi and timeline of vaccine availability.

On Wednesday, Dobbs announced that Jackson was completely out of ICU beds, as cases rise.

“Hospitalizations for COVID-19 are on track toward the crisis level we saw this summer. If we don’t make changes immediately, we’ll see critical shortages of first-line care for the seriously ill and injured. Turning the situation around means all of us — individuals, businesses, schools — taking preventive measures that we know work: social distancing, keeping to small gatherings, and using masks to prevent virus transmission,” MSDH posted on facebook.

During the briefing on Thursday Dobbs and Byers both said that at this time they do not believe a statewide lockdown is necessary, however they urge people to continue wearing masks and social distancing at at least six feet. There has been a mandate for high risk counties to continue wearing their masks, but there is no statewide mandate.

“When you embrace the mask mandate for those counties I think you can see a pretty rapid decline, but it takes embracing it,” said Dr. Byers.

Dobbs said when the statewide mandate was removed there were outbreaks in places like churches which is dangerous because you have an intermixing of the young and old.

They indicated that there could be some doses of the vaccine available by mid-December. At this point all officials have indicated that those vaccines will first go to healthcare workers, first responders and those most high risk individuals, Mississippi will receive over 800,000 doses initially.  Reports have shown the vaccine to be up to 90 percent effective.

However, the vaccine will not be available yet for children. It is also not clear if pregnant women will be able to take the vaccine.

“Based on initial information that we have, I feel really good about it,” said Dobbs. He added that at this point he would feel comfortable giving it to himself and his family.

The vaccine will be a two dose. That you will receive a single shot and roughly three to four weeks later you will return for the second shot. This first vaccine will require a cold temperature to be maintained, Byers said that they are currently working on the logistics to ensure it can be delivered to hospitals and pharmacies.

There will be numerous ways to get the vaccine one it is available. Pharmacies and hospitals will have the availability to administer it. Dobbs also said there is a chance that the drive through testing procedures could be utilized as well.

Dobbs said he hopes to see the federal government provide more financial support in order to pull off this large vaccine effort as well as assistance from the National Guard. Dobbs praised their help so far.

With the holiday’s approaching Dobbs also recommends that families not participate in large gatherings in order to prevent mass infection of the virus.