The Investigators: Mississippi Health Department lab is not running all the COVID-19 tests it can

The state still remains in the top 20 for tests per capita

The Investigators: Miss. using unused testing capabilities for nursing homes

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - As Mississippi begins reopening various businesses this week, the state is currently testing more people for COVID-19 per capita than most states across the nation.

However, the Mississippi State Department of Health has the ability to run more tests than it is right now.

It runs COVID-19 tests at its Public Health Laboratory.

According to state health officials, the lab has the ability to run approximately 564 tests each day but it is currently averaging approximately 175 tests each day.

The Investigators asked the health department why it’s not running approximately 389 additional tests each day.

In an email, a spokesperson said one reason is that the availability of private testing is “decreasing demand for our services.”

“That’s why at this point we’re deploying our testing capabilities to the outbreaks,” said Dr. Thomas Dobbs, Mississippi Health Officer.

Dr. Dobbs said in a press conference last week that because testing demand at the state level is down, Mississippi health officials will begin proactively testing in outbreak areas, like nursing homes.

“We’re gonna take a bigger role in that and try to do more extensive testing around asymptomatic contacts so that we can understand who might be shedding or sick or pre-symptomatic,” he said.

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves told reporters at the same press conference that the state lab will continue building testing capacity to prepare for an increase in COVID-19 cases.

“There may be a resurgence in the fall and we’ll be continuing to build capacity to deal with that over the next several months,” said Reeves.

Even with the testing gap at the state lab, our COVID-19 state testing map shows Mississippi is testing more people per capita than states like California and Michigan.

Tennessee has the highest per capita test rate in the Mid-South with 2,261 per 100,000 people. Arkansas ranks far below both states with 1,341 per 100,000 people.

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