Coroners short on PPE and unable to test deceased for COVID-19

Coroners short on PPE and unable to test deceased for COVID-19

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Rankin County Coroner David Ruth said the coronavirus outbreak has made it challenging for him to do his job.

“Certain family members will say their loved ones had symptoms that were consistent with the symptoms of COVID-19 and they’re asking me to test them. And that testing is not available to us because there’s such a shortage on the testing kits that they’re not being made available to coroners,” said Ruth.

Ruth said the coronavirus test kits are in high demand, which could lead to more problems for coroners trying to do their jobs safely in this pandemic.

“My issue is when someone passes, if they had symptoms, and we can’t check them or have them tested -- all the people they’ve been around, all the first responders that respond to the death call, they’re exposed if the person had it,” said Ruth.

Without the swabs, Ruth and other coroners “don’t have a choice but to go back with past medical history, current medical conditions and talk with the family. And we get medical records from their treating physicians and base our ruling on that,” he said.

Hinds County coroner Sharon Grisham-Stewart agreed. She believes COVID-19 swabs used on the deceased could likely take months to be tested.

“The man power that it would take to test post mortem swabs would be the same power used to test the swabs of living. So, you’re taking manpower away,” said Grisham-Stewart.

Both coroners also point out that the access to personal protective equipment has been challenging too, but they are working together despite the overall need.

“Our sheriff of course, Bryan Bailey, he’s had some things and he’s provided me things that I was short on and also to the EOC director. So we’re all just pitching in to make sure we take care of each other. We’ve been very fortunate and our board of supervisors have said anything we need, get it if we can," said Ruth.

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