FAQ: Coronavirus in Mississippi

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Mississippi Today reporters have listened closely to your questions as they monitor Mississippi’s coronavirus developments. Click on the “+” in the question tabs below to view answers to some of our most frequently asked questions regarding COVID-19 in Mississippi. Be sure to follow all of our coronavirus coverage here and, for news as it happens, be sure to follow our Twitter thread.

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, Gov. Tate Reeves has issued a number of executive orders regulating health and public gatherings to slow the spread of the virus. Read through his executive orders here.

A running list of testing centers can be found at the health departments here.

These sites only screen and test symptomatic people, which means they require that you have symptoms of COVID-19 in order to be tested: a fever of 100.4 or greater and severe cough or chest pain. They also ask that you call ahead before showing up.

University of Mississippi Medical Center and Mississippi State Department of Health launched drive-up testing tents at the Mississippi Fairgrounds this week. Patients must go through the new Cspire health mobile app or use the telehealth phone line to be screened before getting a testing appointment. Details are here.

 

Mississippi has 12,618 hospital beds, with about 10,000 not including psychiatric hospital beds, and of those, a little more than 800 devoted to ICU care. As of April 12, at least 552 people have been hospitalized. This is not representative of all confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state, however, and excludes 1,039 cases that are still under investigation. See updated hospitalizations rates at the health department’s website.

Mississippians would have access to about 1,500 ICU beds including Memphis and Mobile regional capacity, not accounting for daily use. Based on disease spread modeling, Harvard found that in a moderate outbreak scenario, every region in the state would need to expand its ICU capacity except Oxford and Meridian. Read more about Mississippi’s hospital capacity and outbreak projections here.

We update our county case map every morning, which also has toggle maps for number of cases per county/per-capita rates per county and a line chart with total number of cases and new cases.

Underlying health conditions make a person at greater risk for severe illness if they contract the disease. Research estimates that 44 percent of the state’s population is at higher risk of illness if they contract COVID due to age or health conditions. Read more here.

Treating more cases due to underlying health conditions could put a strain on the health care system’s ability to treat everyone that becomes ill, especially in rural areas without access to hospitals.

At least eight counties do not have a hospital and 49 counties do not currently have ICU beds. There are about three ICU beds for every 10,000 Mississippian. Almost half of the state’s rural hospitals — 31 total — are at risk of closing.

No. The state health department has not released the number of tests per county, nor the number of tests run by commercial labs. Prior to March 28, MSDH reported only the positive results from those private tests, as well as all tests that the state ran, which did not allow us to accurately calculate the number of cases per tests.

As of March 28, the state health department pulled the total test count from their website, because it did not reflect an accurate state testing picture. Most other states require commercial labs to report both positive and negative results to the state in order to capture all tests in the state and reflect testing statewide.

Update: on March 30, MSDH returned to reporting testing numbers from MSDH lab only: Testing Totals
MSDH Public Health Laboratory (MPHL) testing totals as of 6 p.m., March 29, 2020. These totals are for tests performed at the MPHL only. Note: We still don’t know commercial lab test numbers other than those with positive tests.

  • Total individuals tested: 3,836
  • Total positive individuals: 326

Before the last week of March, the state health department said it did not have the resources to do intense surveillance around each case, though cases were investigated by the department. But on Thursday March 26, officials said they launched a strategy to “aggressively” target known cases’ potential community spread. Part of that strategy involves identifying second-tier exposures, like friends, family and co-workers, to isolate that spread through quarantine measures and test where appropriate.

Due to a nationwide choke of the medical supply chain, supplies such as testing materials and personal protective equipment, or PPE, have been and continue to be scarce. The state health lab, as well as commercial labs and now University of Mississippi Medical Center that launched testing, only test symptomatic people to preserve supplies and often prioritize tests for hospitalized patients to triage care for sick people. Read more about the health department’s recently launched surveillance strategy here.

Usually, 1099 employees — independent contractors, self employed or freelancers — are not eligible for unemployment, but new federal legislation expands benefits to eligible gig workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yes, you may be eligible for partial unemployment. A portion of your continued earnings would be deducted from your weekly benefit amount.

You may be eligible for partial unemployment.

Normally, people who quit their jobs are not eligible for unemployment, but new federal legislation expands benefits to people who quit as a “direct result of COVID-19” during the pandemic.