JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Despite state health officials recommending a ban on visitors at long-term care facilities more than a month ago, coronavirus cases keep growing in those facilities around the state, prompting new techniques to help curb the spread.
“It’s a vulnerable population, folks can’t get around, they’re at high risk because of age and other medical conditions," said Dr. Thomas Dobbs, who serves as the state’s health officer. "I would say, for our outbreaks, that’s probably our main priority at this moment.”
With the public now getting daily numbers of coronavirus cases in Missisisppi’s long-term care facilities by county, it’s easier to see the extent of the infection.
Up until Tuesday, the Mississippi State Department of Health had only released the number of facility outbreaks in counties across the state.
A 3 On Your Side analysis finds these LTC cases make up almost ten percent of the state’s total COVID-19 numbers.
In addition, nearly 1 in 3 deaths from the virus happened to someone in a long-term care facility like a nursing home.
Lauderdale County has more cases at long-term care facilities than anywhere else: 63.
That county was also first put under a shelter-in-place order by Gov. Tate Reeves three weeks ago.
Despite that, cases keep rising.
State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs alluded that employees at these facilities could be the source.
“The residents aren’t coming and going. So it’s very, very important for people who are ill to not go into work and potentially spread this disease," Dobbs said.
Dobbs said the department makes sure these facilities have enough personal protective equipment on hand to be able to protect themselves, and they’re also changing testing requirements for those who work and live there.
“We are more aggressive in testing in long-term care facilities, more than just people that are symptomatic. We’re gonna take a bigger role in that, try to do more extensive testing around asymptomatic contacts, so we can understand who might be shedding, or sick, or pre-symptomatic," Dobbs said.