Coronavirus (COVID-19 ) testing at the Mississippi Department of Public Health Laboratory.
The Mississippi State Department of Health is making free rapid testing available at its drive-through community test sites, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs announced Monday.
Rapid test results will be returned within 15 minutes, but it’s unclear how accurate they will be, Dobbs said. Rapid tests are done in the “front of the nose,” as opposed to the deeper PCR tests MSDH has been using, he said.
If people choose to take the rapid test, they will also receive a PCR test, the results of which will be returned within a few days, he said. They can also choose to take the PCR test only.
Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs announced free rapid COVID-19 testing will be available at drive-through community test sites. (Photo: Rogelio V. Solis, AP)
Dobbs said there’s not enough data to know what the rapid tests’ false negative rates are. So far health officials have seen that rapid tests work well on symptomatic individuals, he said. However, some people who were exposed to COVID-19 but were not experiencing symptoms have had negative rapid test results and positive PCR test results.
Where to get tested
Starting Monday, MSDH began offering rapid testing at the Old Farmer’s Market in Jackson and some locations in northeast Mississippi, Dobbs said. They are:
- Clay County — Monday
- Calhoun County — Tuesday
- Webster County — Wednesday
- Winston County — Thursday
- Lee County — Friday
Rapid testing will be available at all community drive-through testing sites across the state next week, Dobbs said. Students, teachers and staff in K-12 education and senior citizens in long term care settings will be prioritized for rapid testing.
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Dobbs also announced that free surgical masks and face shields will be available at drive-through community testing sites for people over the age of 65 or with chronic medical conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, renal failure, obesity, weakened immune system or chronic lung disease.
“We know there’ll be vulnerable people who will be going to the polls,” Dobbs said.
COVID-19 in Mississippi
MSDH reported 296 new coronavirus cases and no new deaths, bringing the total number of positive cases in Mississippi to 105,228. More than 3,000 people have died of COVID-19.
At the end of September, Gov. Tate Reeves lifted Mississippi’s mask requirement. Over the past week, the state has averaged 635 cases a day, which amounts to an increase of 27% from the average two weeks earlier, according to The New York Times’ COVID tracker.
The state is also seeing more people hospitalized and on ventilators, Dobbs said, and over the weekend, the intensive care units at six major hospitals were full.
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Asked if Reeve’s decision to lift mask requirements played a role in the rising numbers, Dobbs said, “We started seeing numbers start to creep up before really there would have been a potential impact from the mask mandate.”
He added, “It could certainly be part of the problem as time goes forward…. we may head back to having more and more mandatory masks if we can’t do it voluntarily.”
Dobbs encouraged people to continue to socially distance, avoid crowds and wear masks.
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