Testing comes amid surge

A woman gets tested for COVID-19 at a drive-thru testing site at the Harrison Building in Liberty on Thursday. 

LIBERTY — Officials with the Mississippi State Department of Health and the National Guard coordinated a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site at the Harrison Building in Liberty on Thursday afternoon as the state reported one of its highest single-day surge in virus cases.

“It was a very smooth operation,” Amite County Civil Defense Director Grant McCurley said.

National Guard medics ended up testing 32 people throughout the day.

Those with appointments entered the parking lot off of Main Street in Liberty and were directed around the Harrison building through a series of steps to get tested.

A National Guardsman greeted each patient as they pulled their vehicle into a lane marked off by orange traffic cones.

The first medic placed biohazard bags containing testing swabs under the windshield wiper.

Then patients pulled forward and were greeted by National Guardsmen adorned in full-body personal protective equipment and face shield. These medics swabbed deep into the nasal cavities of patients.

Several patients grimaced during the testing but most of those tested quickly moved along without any problems.

National Guard officials said those who were tested today should receive their results in three days.

Since the outbreak was first detected in Mississippi in March, health officials have identified 84 coronavirus infections among Amite County residents — an increase of two over the week — and two deaths.

Statewide, the number of the infected and dead continued to surge as officials begged people to follow simple health and safety guidelines to slow the spread of coronavirus.

State officials reported 870 new infections on Thursday and another 10 deaths.

No new deaths were reported in Southwest Mississippi.

While the rate of positive test results is increasing sharply in the period between May 17 and June 27, the rate of testing has actually fallen somewhat significantly.

Despite testing at least 10,000 fewer people in the period between June 14 and June 27 compared to the period of May 17 through May 30, the percentage of tests that returned positive more than doubled, from 6% to 13% of tests administered.

“Why are the numbers climbing in June in Mississippi?” State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said. “We are spreading it more, not testing more.”

While the rate of death in Mississippi has remained relatively constant since March, it spiked at the end of June and the beginning of July, in line with the way hospitalizations are trending.

Mississippi had 602 people hospitalized with the virus, as well as another 261 who were suspected of having it as of Wednesday night, both reflecting a sharp increase compared to just last weekend.

Officials at Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center said Thursday that the main lobby at the hospital and the entrance to the Cardiovascular Institute will be closed over the Fourth of July holiday weekend. They encouraged patients to use the Emergency Room entrance.

And health officials identified 26 new infections in Pike County Thursday for a total of 393 and 12 deaths since the beginning of the outbreak in March.

Neighboring Lincoln County added another three cases for a total of 437 and 34 deaths.

It’s unclear how many of those who have been infected have recovered, and how many people actually have the virus since many people haven’t been tested and could be infected without being sick.

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