By Alyssa Schnugg
As the spread of COVID-19 unfolds in Mississippi and around the nation, many are sitting glued to social media watching for official numbers of positive cases popping up their communities.
Each morning the Mississippi State Department of Health releases the number of positive cases from the last 24 hours – give or take a few hours. In the late afternoons, the Center for Disease Control releases its national numbers.
However, with things changing at lightning speed, those figures are often delayed.
On Thursday, the MSDH released it’s Thursday morning numbers, siting 16 new cases with none reported from Lafayette County. A few hours later, Oxford and Lafayette County officials announced there was indeed a positive case of COVID-19 in Lafayette County.
The Department of Health reporting is delayed,” said Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill. “They only update the chart once a day. We are in an emergency situation and we will report to our community as we are alerted. We are not waiting on charts to be updated when the safety of our citizens is at risk.”
Oxford physician Dr. Will Dabbs of Urgent Care of Oxford said people need to stop worrying so much on testing and do all they can to help prevent the spread of the virus, regardless of test results.
“The accuracy of the coronavirus test depends upon human factors that are difficult to control,” he wrote in an article that ran recently on Ballisticmag.com. “If the sample was not taken properly, was materially inadequate, or was contaminated, then the results are not reliable. Worst case you might have a negative test, but still have the disease.
“That’s the dangerous bit. We cannot clear symptomatic people to re-enter the population on the strength of a negative coronavirus test. Ergo, the tests are fairly useless at the user level where I work at this particular point in the epidemic. It takes days to get the results anyway. Folks need to get their heads around that and stop fixating on tests. Symptomatic patients with negative testing who re-enter the world too soon could eventually kill somebody.”
According to Dabbs, suspicious symptoms include fever greater than or equal to 100.4, and respiratory symptoms like cough or shortness of breath. If a patient has these symptoms they need to isolate for 14 days.
In the context of this pandemic, if symptomatic they need to isolate even if they test negative,” he wrote. “There is no treatment for this wretched thing anyway, so it isn’t like test results change your therapy. You treat this disease symptomatically based upon severity.”
Dabbs’ partner-in-health Dr. David Coon said Urgent Care is testing; however, they are limiting it to patients who meet the current criteria of the MSDH and CDC.
“That is hard for us and our anxious patients who are sick, but don’t meet those criteria,” Coon told Hottytoddy.com. “We are using a number of different labs. The turn around for the testing we are doing is four to five days it seems, though we have not gotten any results back yet and sent our first testing at the end of last week.”
Coon said since testing has been limited, he wouldn’t be surprised to find out there are people in Oxford who have or have had COVID-19 and didn’t know.
Dobbs and Coon both agree that is where social distancing comes in and the importance of its practice can make the difference in how well Oxford – and the world – pull through this crisis.
“Take social distancing seriously. Don’t go out and mingle with folks. Shelter in place if that’s the order. Maintain some space when you do have to go out in public. And for Heaven’s sake, wash your hands,” Dobbs said.
“The longer we can stretch the spread, the better it will be from a healthcare resource standpoint, from doctors, nurses, and other health workers (some of whom will get ill), shortages of protective gear for healthcare workers, not enough available ICU and other hospital beds, medication shortages, et cetera,” Coon said. “If half of Oxford gets sick with this in the next six weeks, the number of very ill patients will overwhelm Oxford’s health care resources. If the same number gets sick over six months, then those resources can keep up with the number of gravely ill patients.”