There are now six presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in Mississippi, including three cases in Forrest County, according to state health officials.
The first Forrest County case was identified Wednesday night, and the two additional cases in the county were announced Friday.
The fourth case was identified in Leflore County, and two additional cases are under investigation. Officials declined to discuss the locations of those additional two cases at a press conference Friday afternoon in Jackson.
Dr. Thomas E. Dobbs III, state health officer for Mississippi, said 90 patients have been tested so far, and additional COVID-19 cases will be posted on www.healthyms.com.
“As quickly as we get confirmations, we’ll get them on the website,” he said.
Dr. Paul Byers, state epidemiologist, said developments are happening quickly.
“Things are evolving very rapidly, and this is not unanticipated. We have ramped up our testing capacity at the Public Health Lab (in Jackson),” he said. “We are expecting more cases in the coming days and weeks.”
Byers said the two Forrest County cases identified Friday include an adult female over 65 who is currently hospitalized and a male adult who is not hospitalized but is isolated at home.
The state is currently investigating to see if any links exist between the three Forrest County cases.
“Those pieces of investigation – to link all of the cases to a common source of exposure – are still ongoing,” he said.
The Leflore County case, according to Byers, “is an adult female who is not hospitalized but is, in fact, self-isolated.”
He added that the state is conducting a complete “contact investigation” for each case.
Dobbs said the state briefed 400 health care providers, physicians and other facilities on Friday to explain how doctors can test and submit samples.
“They all have access to testing if they want to test in our labs or in commercial labs,” he said.
He urged people who feel they may have COVID-19 to avoid emergency rooms.
“Don’t go to emergency rooms,” said Dobbs. “Call your physician, call your provider … give them a chance to assess you and find out if they need to isolate you.”
The state health officer again urged the public to practice social distancing – keeping space from each other – and to limit mass gatherings to less than 250 people.
He reiterated his Thursday statements that schools will not be closed at this time, but the Mississippi State Department of Health is planning a meeting with school superintendents on Monday.
Dobbs said the 250-person limit on mass gatherings does not apply to schools.
“We’re talking about 250 people in a single location,” he said. “There’s more than 250 people in this building, but not all in one room. A classroom of 30 people is one thing.”