Gov. Reeves announces COVID-19 testing for teachers and emergency telehealth coverage for schools

Nearly 600 teachers, more than 2,000 students in quarantine across Mississippi

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Governor Tate Reeves launched new COVID-19 initiatives for students and teachers as they return to school.

He is expanding COVID-19 testing for all Mississippi teachers, even for those without symptoms, and emergency telehealth coverage through the Mississippi Division of Medicaid (DOM) to include schools.

“Today, as we work to ensure that children can achieve some quality learning in the state of Mississippi, we are announcing two measures to increase access to health care and COVID-19 prevention in schools. First, we are expanding school-based emergency telehealth coverage throughout the state of Mississippi,” said Governor Tate Reeves at today’s press briefing. “This will allow schools, even those without school nurses or school-based clinics, to access telehealth services. We also know that testing can allow us to prevent the spread of the virus by immediately identifying and isolating known cases. As teachers return to the classroom, we want to make it simple for them to get access to testing.”

During the briefing State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said that 71 counties have reported cases in schools up from 38 on Friday.

Dobbs said 245 teachers and 199 students have tested positive with the coronavirus. That’s up from 109 cases in teachers and 69 cases in students Friday.

Dr. Dobbs went on to say that 589 teachers and 2,035 students are currently under quarantine across the state.

These numbers come as many students head back to in person classes across Mississippi.

The new measures from Governor Reeves’ announcement will help teachers and students have greater access to testing as they return to classes.

Teachers will have three options for testing across Mississippi: at MSDH’s Jackson site at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, community sites across the state, as well as by rotating testing teams at their home county health department. Testing teams will rotate every two weeks at county health departments, where teachers can drive up and get tested.

“Extending telehealth coverage has been a key part of ensuring access to care during this public health emergency,” said Executive Director Drew Snyder. “As children return to the classroom, increasing access in school settings is more important now than ever.”

Telehealth services are traditionally delivered by an enrolled Mississippi Medicaid provider located at a distant site to a beneficiary located at an originating site, such as a clinic. DOM’s telehealth policy already allowed school-based clinics – staffed by a physician, nurse practitioner, or a physician assistant.

Monday, the state saw a 6-week low of new coronavirus cases with MSDH reporting 276 additional cases. This after Dr. Dobbs tweeted Sunday, “Don’t lose focus (masks, 6ft, small groups) It’s working! #MaskUpMS

Friday, Reeves announced an extension to his social distancing order - including a statewide mask mandate. He also issued a crowd-size limitation on K-12 extracurricular activities.

The governor extended these orders for an additional two weeks until Monday, August 31 at 8:00 a.m.

As of Monday, Mississippi has reported 72,412 cases of COVID-19 and 2,095 total deaths. 56,577 Mississippians have recovered.

Click here to watch the briefing.

Copyright 2020 WLBT. All rights reserved.