A higher than normal COVID-19 infection count and easy accessibility to Memphis, Arkansas and the heart of the Mississippi Delta are reasons Coahoma County was chosen as one of the state’s first two mobile testing sites last week.
Twenty-five Coahoma County residents took advantage of the mobile testing site for the coronavirus in the parking lot of the Expo Center throughout the day on Friday, March 27. The Mississippi State Department of Health and the University of Mississippi Medical Center organized the testing.“(Clarksdale) was chosen due to a high number of cases and more accessibility for testing,” said Liz Sharlot, Communication Director for MSDH.
Sharlot would not speculate on why the local case count was higher other than to say the disease is new and the state health department continues to learn more about the disease every day.
Clarksdale is the first major community south of the Memphis Metroplex and does have access to a bridge over the Mississippi River. Clarksdale is the northern gateway to the Mississippi Delta.
Locals who felt they had been exposed to the disease were ushered into tents by medical personnel in full bio-hazard suits. The potential patients were then screened for where they had been, how they felt and medical history. Samples were collected by doctors and vans stood by to carry anyone needing advanced healthcare to local hospitals.
According to Marc Rolph, executive director of communications for UMMC, the results of the tests were not available on Friday. It will take several days to determine whether or not those tested had the coronavirus.
As of Tuesday morning, there were 21 reported COVID-19 cases in Coahoma County and no deaths. There were 937 cases in Mississippi and 20 deaths.
There was also a testing site at Lewisburg High School in Olive Branch on the same day.
Rolph reported 85 Desoto County residents took the coronavirus test on Friday.
“Not only is it a bigger, more densely populated area, but they’ve got a pretty strong number of cases already,” Rolph said.
There are 84 reported COVID-19 cases reported in Desoto County and one death as of Tuesday morning.
Olive Branch is also approximately 30 minutes from Memphis, which is in Shelby County. There were 405 reported cases of the coronavirus in Shelby County as of Tuesday morning.
Testing for the coronavirus in Mississippi is not finished.
“I think there’s some talk about other similar operations happening next week, but I just think it’s too early to disclose any location,” Rolph said.
Vicksburg and Greenwood were the site of mobile testing facilities on Tuesday, a massive testing facility was slated to open in Meridian today and a fourth testing location was scheduled for Natchez on Thursday.
Rolph said while healthcare professionals will handle the sick, he said the public could help by following a few simple rules:
“Stay home,” Rolph said. “If you don’t have to leave your house, don’t.
“Social distancing is important,” he added. “If you don’t have to be in any groups, don’t.”
Rolph said social distancing is just as important in every community, whether it has a smaller population like Coahoma County or is a big city.
Sharlot urged anyone who thinks they have been exposed to coronavirus to get tested.
“They should call their healthcare provider immediately; do not just show up,” said Sharlot.
She also said the MSHD website -- https://msdh.ms.gov/ -- is packed with information about the disease, prevention and general information.
EDITOR'S NOTE: See daily coronavirus case count and Mississippi State Department of Health updates at noon each day.