This is the first large-scale COVID-19 testing of asymptomatic patients in Mississippi. State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs says over Memorial Day Weekend, around 16 thousand tests of residents and employees of nursing homes were completed. He says the extra testing showed that what seems like allergies could be the Coronavirus. Dr. Dobbs says the health department found that the disease can have very mild symptoms and could not manifest fever even in older residents. "It just changed the paradigm a little bit of how we approach the infection control and can’t depend on a symptomatic diagnosis to be our first line of defense." says Dr. Dobbs. "We really need to assume that everybody is potentially contagious and take those very important steps throughout the entire workday.”
The state does not yet have plans to begin asymptomatic testing in the general public. Governor Tate Reeves says while the data is valuable for understanding the virus, it may not translate perfectly to understanding how it spreads in the general public. “The way in which they live in relatively small places and with one another creates a dynamic that is not true in the population at large, but also we are testing a group of individuals that by their very nature are in that higher risk category because they do tend to be older Mississippians," says Reeves.
The Department of Health reports 121 long term care facilities in Mississippi have outbreaks of the disease, but they have not released the names or locations of these facilities. Officials say the testing is on track to be completed in the next week.
The Mississippi Health Department is also distributing over two thousand vials of Remdesivir to 29 hospitals across the state. State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs says the anti-viral drug was designed to fight Ebola, and it could be effective against the Coronavirus. He says the drug still needs to be studied. “Anecdotally it seems like it might be more effective if used early within the course of treatment, which makes sense because you can prevent the damage if you treat folks early," says Dobbs. "We have already distributed it to 29 hospitals and have had anecdotal reports of some potential good outcomes, but again outside the context of a clinical trial it’s hard to know for sure if they wouldn’t have gotten better.” Dr. Dobbs says the drug will be used for hospitalized coronavirus patients with severe illness.