Saying they are driven by a love of neighbor, officials and staff with Samaritan's Purse opened an emergency field hospital Wednesday in Mississippi, which is experiencing a record high in cases, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19.
The 32-bed field hospital in Jackson, Miss., will work alongside the University of Mississippi Medical Center to treat seriously ill COVID-19 patients. Mississippi – the second-least vaccinated state against the coronavirus – has more patients in the ICU due to COVID than at any time during the pandemic. Every metric is at a record high, and hospital beds are full.
Samaritan's Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization.
"We are humbled to be here, we love you, and we are praying for you," said Edward Graham, son of Franklin Graham and the assistant to the vice president for Samaritan's Purse. "Our people do this because they want to love their neighbor."
Graham also encouraged residents to get vaccinated. Graham himself is vaccinated.
According to the Mississippi State Department of Health, a total of 98 percent of new COVID cases are among those who are not fully vaccinated. Additionally, 89 percent of hospitalizations and 86 percent of deaths are among those not fully vaccinated.
"I want to care for the least of these, and it's my hope that Christians, and people of faith in this community, will care for those who may be in a 'least' position or those that might be more vulnerable," Graham said. "Do the right thing. ... Get vaccinated."
Graham compared getting vaccinated to carrying a rifle into battle. Graham formerly served in the military.
"I've heard people [say], 'Well, why don't you just trust the Lord?" he said at a news conference, referencing the virus. "Well, I did trust the Lord when I went into combat, but I still took my rifle, I still took my helmet and I still put my body armor on. God gave us equipment and tools to go in smartly into combat. Well, we're in combat. These nurses and these doctors – they're tired. They've been fighting this."
The Delta variant, medical officials at the press release said, is impacting the younger population more so than did the earlier variant. Unvaccinated adults in Mississippi ages 40-49 are six times more likely to die of COVID than are the fully vaccinated. For those ages 50-64, there is a 19-fold difference.
Only 36 percent of the state is fully vaccinated. (Mississippi trails only Alabama.) Nationally, it's 51 percent. A total of 72 percent of adults in the U.S. have received at least one dose.
This is the sixth COVID field hospital Samaritan's Purse has operated, following ones in New York, North Carolina, California, Italy and the Bahamas.
Samaritan's Purse medical personnel say they hope the field hospital has a Kingdom impact.
"My hope and my prayer for these patients is that they will see the love of Jesus through our work," said Mike Liner, a pharmacist who works with Samaritan's Purse.
Photo courtesy: Fernando Zhiminaicela/Pixabay/Creative Commons
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.