Six COVID-19 cases now identified in Mississippi, say health officials

One of Friday’s presumptive cases is a Pearl River County woman over the age of 65, who has been hospitalized.
FACTS NOT FEAR: The latest Coronavirus news
FACTS NOT FEAR: The latest Coronavirus news(Gray Media)
Published: Mar. 13, 2020 at 7:00 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLOX) - Friday afternoon, state health officials announced six total presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in Mississippi.

The Mississippi State Department of Health reports the second and third presumptive positive cases are both cases from Forrest County and the fourth case is in Leflore County.

Later Friday evening, details were released of the fifth and sixth cases, both in women over 65 who have been hospitalized. One patient is a Copiah County woman and the other is a Pearl River County woman.

Health officials stressed the locations are where the patients live but not necessarily where they are being treated.

A presumptive positive test means the patient tested positive when administered the COVID-19 test. However, those results will now have to be confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As of Friday at 4:30 p.m., Mississippi has tested 90 samples, with six coming back as positive.

One case is a Forrest County woman over the age of 65 who recently traveled to North Carolina. The patient has been hospitalized. The other case is a Forrest County man who recently traveled to Florida and has been self-isolating at home without hospitalization. The Leflore County woman is also self-isolating without hospitalization, officials said Friday afternoon.

The first presumptive case was reported Wednesday night in a man from Forrest County, who officials said Thursday traveled through the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport on his way home from Florida where he was attending a music festival.

“We are conducting further investigation to determine if and how these cases might be connected to the first presumptive case," said said MSDH State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs, MD, MPH. “At this point, that is not clear, but we are thoroughly exploring all possibilities.”

Dobbs announced Thursday that MSDH is expanding access to COVID-19 testing that will allow physicians to submit specimens to the Mississippi Public Health Laboratory or commercial labs without prior consultation with MSDH. If individuals are worried about having COVID-19, they should call their healthcare provider.

During Friday’s press conference, Dobbs said any clinic now has the ability to test, but whether they choose to test is a choice. Healthcare providers are able to send samples to the state lab or a commercial lab to test for the novel strain of coronavirus.

Additionally, Dobbs said the MSDH is expanding recommendations for long-term care visitors and large social gatherings.

“We know that this virus is easily spread person to person, so we recommend limiting visitations and discontinuing any group social activities in long-term care facilities,” he said.

MSDH also recommends that individuals should avoid gatherings of more than 250 people and take precautions when they are in public. Communities and organizations should take the current coronavirus situation into account in planning or canceling events.

“Stay informed of the cases in your county and surrounding counties, and maintain social distancing as practical,” said Dobbs. “Our older population and chronically ill individuals, who are especially at risk, should protect themselves by avoiding gatherings of more than 250 people.”

There is no recommendation at this time that schools should close. Dobbs said Friday state health officials are working with the Mississippi Department of Education and local school districts to make the best decision regarding school closures per CDC guidelines. Complete details of the updated information and guidance are available on the MSDH website.

Watch below to hear answers to frequently asked questions about COVID-19 from Dr. Nicholas Conger, who is on the Coronavirus Task Force with Memorial Hospital in Gulfport.

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