State Health Officer speaks on coronavirus in the Pine Belt

Updated: May. 13, 2020 at 8:41 PM CDT
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LAUREL, Miss. (WDAM) - State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs was missing in action during Gov. Tate Reeves’ news conference on Wednesday, but that’s because he was in the Pine Belt.

Dobbs discussed COVID-19 testing and said the virus is very active in the area.

“Over the past several weeks, Jones County has really increased in the number of cases," Dobbs said. “And if you look at the counties that have the highest number per capita in the past seven to 14 days, Jones County falls out in that list, so we are trying to invest a lot of effort and resources in this area.”

As for Jasper County, he said a lot of the association seems to be with the poultry industry.

“Those folks have been working the whole time, there hasn’t been any people who’ve been on administrative leave or anything of that nature—but then it has penetrated into the communities where those people live and we’re seeing a lot of amplification and transmission over there,” Dobbs said.

With more tests being performed, he expects Mississippi will continue to report hundreds of cases each day. He also predicts a possible second surge of coronavirus infections in the fall.

“We’re really worried about that and so we want to make sure that we do everything to get prepared,” Dobbs said. “We’ll have the benefit of hindsight as far as like social distancing, and we do think going back to school we’ll have an opportunity to do some sort of preventive planning and then also would anticipate that our resources going into it for a next phase would be a lot better than when it kind of hit us, you know, back in March.”

He encourages those who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms to get tested at their nearby community health center.

“We really want people to get tested, not only to prevent transmission, but also to make sure if they’re sick and need hospital care they have access to it," Dobb said. “Whether you’re black, white, Hispanic, Native American, everyone needs to have access to testing and to treatment.”

Dobbs spoke at a briefing outside the Laurel Family Health Center and said the center has done a great job making sure people are getting tested and treated.

“The clinic has stepped up and made available testing, certainly for the uninsured and the underserved, but we are providing testing for any and everyone,” Dr. Rashad Ali said.

Residents are encouraged to contact their local community health center for testing and primary care.

“Even if folks don’t have a need for testing or don’t feel the need, they still need to get access to primary care and community health centers. See everyone regardless of their ability to pay,” said Jacine Sherman, CEO of Community Health Center Association of Mississippi.

To find a community health center near you, visit

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