A fully vaccinated sheriff in Mississippi was found dead in his home nearly two weeks after he tested positive for COVID-19, underscoring the strength of the coronavirus delta variant for which public health officials have been amplifying concerns.
Hinds County Sheriff Lee Vance’s death was apparently an exception to what’s been advertised as all but a rule that getting vaccinated will protect against COVID-19 hospitalization and deaths. The proliferation of the delta variant has begun to challenge that narrative.
Vance, who is Black, was the former chief of police in Jackson, Mississippi, who also worked for more than 30 years as a police officer with the department. His body was discovered on Wednesday while he was quarantining at his home after testing positive for COVID-19 on July 23. He was 63 years old.
Hinds County Coroner’s Office characterized Vance’s passing as a “COVID-related death,” local news outlet WJTV reported Tuesday night.
Hinds County Sheriff’s Capt. Tyree Jones told the Clarion-Ledger on Friday that Vance was fully vaccinated and had been at his home treating severe cold-like symptoms. Five days later, Vance was found dead.
Vance’s death came as it was reported that emergency rooms in Mississippi were at their highest capacity since the pandemic first hit early last year.
“The state is currently averaging 131 new COVID-19 hospitalizations per day,” Mississippi Today reported on Wednesday. “Only 108 of the 827 adult ICU beds in Mississippi are currently open, with multiple hospitals across the state at maximum capacity.”
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that less than 0.004% of people who have been fully vaccinated will experience a so-called breakthrough case — COVID-19 infections in people who have received both doses of the vaccine — and less than 0.001% of fully vaccinated people have died from COVID-19.
Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, chair of the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, recently told NewsOne that it is easier to transmit and more aggressive than prior versions of the coronavirus and said vaccination is still the best way to stay safe.
“The pandemic isn’t over; the pandemic is shifting,” Nunez-Smith said. “And so it is becoming more and more urgent to be vaccinated to be protected from the delta variant and other variants.”
Vance’s death came as federal authorities have been renewing calls for people to be vaccinated.
As of Monday, just about half of the U.S. population had been fully vaccinated, while about 58% had received at least one shot.
More than 614,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, with more than 35 million cases being reported, according to data compiled by the Washington Post as of Thursday morning.
While new cases and deaths had fallen as the number of vaccinations increased, they’ve both been spiking as the delta variant continues to spread quickly.