Ensuring that Mississippians are tested for the COVID-19 coronavirus is one of the most important tasks in the effort to curb the spread of virus, said Dr. Thomas Dobbs, Mississippi’s state health officer, during Thursday’s press conference with the governor.
“We really have to ramp up testing,” he said, then isolate or quarantine those that test positive.
Dobbs went on to say that everyone showing symptoms of the virus should be tested. Those symptoms include a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher, coughing and difficulty breathing.
For now, Mississippi does not have the resources to test everyone requesting a test for free, even those who are symptomatic, although Dobbs is working to expand that capability. Hospital emergency rooms are not testing, and clinics are prioritizing testing for those with severe symptoms and those at higher risk including patients over 65 or who have compromised immune symptoms.
Those who do not have symptoms—Dobbs dubbed them the “worried well”—may not ever be tested.
The Mississippi State Department of Health is in the process of opening multiple drive-up testing sites across the state, some in collaboration with the Mississippi National Guard and the University of Mississippi Medical Center. A drive-up site is open in Jackson at the Mississippi State Fairgrounds. Testing at the site is free but by appointment only. Call 601-496-7200 or download the C-Spire Health app on your smartphone. Visit the UMMC website for additional information.
MSDH has also published a list of clinics across the state that will test for the virus for a fee. The list is not comprehensive, as many private doctors and clinics will test if they have test kits.
Those with health insurance or cash to pay for the test (expect to pay at least $200) should call ahead to be pre-screened for symptoms, travel histories and risk factors. Testing is by appointment only, and you will be given instructions to protect the staff and other patients from the virus.
Mississippians without insurance, the cash to pay for a test or transportation to Jackson aren’t completely in the cold. Earlier this month, Jackson-Hinds Comprehensive Health Center announced 10 locations around the state that will be doing COVID-19 testing. The list includes Vicksburg-Warren Family Health Care at 1203 Mission Park Drive (601-362-5321). Payment for services is based on the patient’s ability to pay, among other factors.
As funds become available from the federal government, Dobbs hopes to implement a strategy in Mississippi that has been successful in other countries to curb the numbers of new COVID-19 cases. Testing is the first, and possibly the most important part of that strategy.