JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - If you live in Jackson, it could soon be easier to get tested for Coronavirus.
The city has entered a partnership with LabLINQ Diagnostics to provide mobile testing sites in each of the city’s seven wards.
Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba announced the partnership at a press conference on Thursday.
“In Mississippi alone, we have had over 243,000 cases, with more than 5,313 deaths from this very deadly disease,” he said. “Our most critical responsibility as elected officials is to protect those that we serve.”
The mayor said the mobile testing centers should help ease the burden of getting a COVID-19 test, which often includes driving to a nearby testing center and enduring a nasal swab test.
He said the tests being offered at the LabLINQ units will be the saliva tests, meaning they will “not require Q-Tips up the nose.”
Test results also can be returned within three hours, meaning that patients will know earlier whether or not they need to quarantine or seek medical help.
Lumumba said data collected by LabLINQ also could be used to help detect where COVID-19 hotspots are in the city.
For those who do not have insurance but believe they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, the tests will be provided free of charge. For others, the costs of the tests can be covered by private insurance or Medicaid, according to Council President Aaron Banks.
He and his daughter were tested Thursday at a center at New Jerusalem Church North. He said the process was easy and that it, “sure beats getting something stuck up your nose.”
Banks and his daughter’s tests came back negative.
The councilman was not sure when other mobile centers would be going out, but said he would provide a schedule to 3 On Your Side once he finds out.
The city council approved entering into an agreement with Georgia-based LabLinq late last year. The partnership is coming at no cost to the city.
The company also has testing locations in Atlanta and Eagan, Minn., according to its website.
Lumumba said testing and detection services are especially important as the state struggles to meet demands for the COVID-vaccine.
“At this point in time, the demand for the vaccine far outweighs the access to it,” he said. “It’s important that we have early detection as relates to any virus or disease. The earlier you detect it, the better you can respond to it.”
“I had a discussion with (State Health Officer Dr. Thomas) Dobbs yesterday evening, and he has shared with me that just in Mississippi, there are 50,000 people who are scheduled for the vaccine at this point, but they don’t have 50,000 vaccines prepared to even address that population,” Lumumba said.
When asked, MSDH said that the appointments made so far will, “account for available vaccine and anticipated vaccine over through January,” and that the agency is “operating at maximum capacity.”
Nonetheless, Lumumba said he and other city leaders have to “do all we can to make sure we serve the communities that are underserved,” Lumumba said. “It is a sad statistic … that only 18 percent of those who have been vaccinated are African-American.”
Through January 14, 77,223 people across the state had received their first dose of the COVID vaccine. Another 8,606 had received their first and second doses, according to the Mississippi State Department of Health. Figures show that just 15 percent of those vaccinated have been African-American.
Lumumba said that disparity “demonstrates the great work we have to do here to protect people until vaccines or other solutions to provide herd immunity become available.”