JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Leaders with the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) said there has been an increase in COVID-19 and flu cases in recent weeks across the state.

State Health Officer Dr. Dan Edney said the availability of intensive care unit (ICU) beds in Mississippi has decreased recently. He said rural hospitals have struggling recently with transferring patients who need ICU beds at Level 1 and Level 2 hospitals in the state.

This year, flu season started early in Mississippi. In recent weeks, the worst flu activity has largely been in the South.

Flu season typically starts in November and lasts as late as March in Mississippi, but usually peaks anywhere between December and February.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Mississippi has seen very high flu activity this year.

The number of hospitalizations we’ve seen so far this year is already higher than any flu season since 2010-2011 across the United States.

According to MSDH, 3,379 new coronavirus cases were reported between November 19 and December 5.

Edney and State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers encouraged Mississippians to get their flu and COVID-19 booster shots as soon as possible.

Seasonal influenza vaccinations are now available for children and qualifying adults at all MSDH county health departments.

The new bivalent COVID-19 booster shot is also available at county health departments. Appointments can be made through covidvaccine.msdh.ms.gov or by calling the COVID-19 hotline at 877-978-6453.

The updated COVID-19 booster offers improved protection against both the original strain of COVID-19 and the omicron variants that are currently causing most infections (BA.4 and BA.5).

To locate a county health department clinic in your area or for more information on flu, visit the MSDH website at www.HealthyMS.com/flu.

MSDH leaders are encouraging organizations to schedule vaccine events. To schedule a vaccination event, call the Office of Preventive Health and Health Equity at 1-877-978-6453 or visit vaccineevent@msdh.ms.gov.

Watch the full news conference below.