COVID-19 testing took “herculean effort”

According to the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH), seven percent of Mississippi residents have now been tested for coronavirus, including 100 percent of all residents and staff of the 211 nursing homes in Mississippi.

MSDH says nursing homes are considered high-risk locations because their residents are older or in poor health and even one case of COVID-19 in these facilities among residents or employees is considered an outbreak.  The effort came at the urging of President Trump last month as he encouraged states to test all nursing homes as part of the country’s reopening strategy.

MSDH says 13,911 residents and 17,324 staff members were tested for COVID-19 during a 14-day period in the last two weeks of May. The Mississippi Public Health Lab and the University of Mississippi Medical Center tested a total of 26,549 individuals. Of those, 676 were positive for COVID-19.

“We have been tracking outbreaks in nursing homes since we first saw COVID case in Mississippi on March 11,” said Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs. “That has been a very vulnerable population that has shown to be more susceptible to severe illness and death from COVID.”

Dobbs said an interesting finding from the nursing home testing was that many of the positive cases in residents presented with mild symptoms, not the severe symptoms of fever or shortness of breath as originally identified as the most common symptom of COVID-19.

Dobbs said completing the testing strategy was a herculean effort conducted by the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) and the Mississippi National Guard.

“We’ve been very fortunate to work with some incredible partners through the overall COVID response, and this is an example of how much we can accomplish when we work together,” he said.