/From defense to offense’ Top health officer unveils new anti-coronavirus strategy

From defense to offense’ Top health officer unveils new anti-coronavirus strategy

Gov. Gov. Dobbs stated that it is a labor-intensive task to ensure you find all cases and keep an eye on them to ensure they are properly isolated. “But we want to do an intensive investigation to identify the second tier individuals who are likely be the next generation infection and make sure that they understand their quarantine obligation. This was done during an hour-long newsconference on Thursday at the Governor’s Mansion – a sunny, unseasonably warm location where journalists and conference participants could safely distance themselves. Dobbs stated that the new strategy is most effective if officials increase testing. This can be costly and time-consuming for already stretched Mississippi State Department of Health. Dobbs stated that although the state lab offers free tests to providers who request them, the department lacks the resources and the time and money to pursue the demands and testing that result from every positive test. Dobbs also spoke about staffing, laboratory supply, and personal protective equipment (or PPE). Officials from the University of Mississippi Medical Center announced on Thursday that they are near to opening their own laboratory for COVID-19 testing analysis. LouAnn Woodward, vice-chancellor for health affairs, and dean of School of Medicine, stated that they plan to open Friday with the ability to run 90 tests per day. This number will increase to 500 by next week. (Editor’s Note: UMMC stated Friday that they now can run 180 tests per days, double the number of Thursday and plan to increase their capacity to 700 samples per night. The increased capacity of UMMC would reduce the strain on both the state lab and commercial laboratories. As of Thursday, the state lab had tested 2,776 individuals with 485 cases identified and six deaths. The week has seen test growth fluctuate, with reports fluctuating as to how many tests are being reported each day. While the number of tests increased by only 5% earlier in the week, it jumped by 43% from Wednesday to Thursday. The Department of Health can issue legal quarantine orders to anyone who could spread contagious diseases if the state intensifies testing. Dobbs stated that they would issue these orders as the department implements the new strategy. Dobbs stated that officials would have presented the plan sooner if they had the resources. Reeves suggested that the strategy could be paid for using funds from the federal legislation expected to be passed by Congress and signed into law this week by the president. Dobbs stated that testing would only be done for people who have symptoms of the virus at the beginning of the new strategy. The state health department, University of Mississippi Medical Center and the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency will be required to cooperate in the implementation of the strategy, he said. These partnerships will be in place Friday to support the second stage state-sponsored drive through testing pop-ups in Clarksdale or Olive Branch. Both Coahoma County and Desoto have experienced rapid case growth, but limited testing availability. Others, including national health experts, have said it is too late for the United States to adopt the model because of the high number of cases and difficulty in finding all the contacts. Dobbs said that it was not too late to test the model in Mississippi. Mississippi Today reported earlier this week that the state had the 12th highest number of confirmed cases per capita. This rank is based on nationwide case results, which were compiled by researchers and compared against U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics, as of Thursday afternoon. Mississippi currently has 16 cases for every 100,000 people. New York has 191 outright cases per 100,000 residents, making it the country’s most populous state. Louisiana, which is neighboring New Orleans, is currently battling a hotspot of cases. It currently has the third highest rate per capita of cases, with 50 cases for every 100,000 residents. Reeves stated that he supports Gov. John Bel Edwards recently took action to stop the spread of coronavirus in Louisiana. Edwards issued an order to stay at home earlier in the week. Reeves stated that “what happens in New Orleans will have an effect on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.” Reeves acknowledged the problems in New York and California (34th and eighth, respectively, for cases per 100k), but he expressed concern about Louisiana’s cases. Dobbs stated that the state’s cases are spread across Mississippi. He suggested that the high number of cases per capita may be due to the increased testing. Dobbs also said that he would like to see more cases, as it allows for cases to be identified and isolated. He said, “Certainly, we have had more cases, and we are watching it very closely. If you look at our map, you’ll see that we’re distributed across the state so it doesn’t really matter, except for some areas where you can look at concentration, it is pretty well distributed.” Because the health department doesn’t report the number of commercial lab tests, only positive results, the actual number of state-wide tests is not available. To calculate the exact rate of cases per test, most states report both sets. Reporters and researchers cannot compare the number of tests per capita or the number of cases per test to determine how the state’s case growth compares to the total count of statewide testing. According to Tuesday’s state demographic data, 31 percent of Mississippi patients are currently in the hospital. Dobbs stated that the rate of hospitalizations has remained the same. This means that around 150 Mississippians are being treated with COVID-19 at the moment. That’s the seventh highest in the country, according to state information that is released. Dobbs stated that the state lab prioritizes running tests from hospitals, and that hospitals are more diligent in sending these tests. He also said it could over-represent Mississippi’s hospitalization rate. Dobbs stated that the hospitalization rate is not surprising. Older patients with more symptoms will be more easily identified and tested. Dobbs, Reeves and Reeves believe the virus is closer to the beginning in Mississippi than it is at the end. Dobbs stated that the virus is not likely to disappear. “It’s just beginning to ramp up,” Dobbs said. Some have suggested that Reeves include a stay-at-home order or shelter-in place order, similar to what other states have put in place to combat the virus. Reeves stated that he will enact any recommendation made by health professionals if it is received. Dobbs didn’t give any details when asked about the reasons for this recommendation. He said it was a fluid situation. On Thursday, the Republican governor said he would add to his executive order starting Tuesday. This was to clarify that he wasn’t trying to stop counties or municipalities from enacting stricter precautionary orders against individuals and businesses. Reeves’ order stated that restaurant dining rooms can be opened to 10 or less people, not including employees. Reeves stated that his order would not override local mandates that restrict restaurants to providing delivery and carry out services. Reeves’ definitions of essential services cannot be changed by local governments. However, a local government could place a curfew if it allows people to travel essential services to work. To support this important work, you can make a regular donation to our Spring Member Drive today. Our reporters give a human face to policy’s impact on everyday Mississippians by listening more closely and understanding their communities. 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