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Latorre asks for public’s patience as results of COVID-19 testing lag

More testing sites are opening across the state, but it’s taking longer for some health care professionals to get the results, a Vicksburg physician said Sunday.

“We’re getting more testing done, and as we do more testing, we’re going to find more people who are positive,” said Dr. Carlos Latorre, a Vicksburg family practitioner who is also the state Medicaid director and a member of the state’s COVID-19 Task Force. His comments came Sunday during a press conference by local government and health officials at the Vicksburg Convention Center.

“(But) although we do have more testing available now, we’re having issues with the testing itself,” he said. “We are having tests that are not coming back as quickly as we’d like; some of them are taking 7-9 days before we get the results.”

The problem, he said, is a backlog at the private laboratory companies doing testing for the outpatient clinics. He said Monday the situation is beginning to improve. He asked people waiting on tests to be patient.

He said people who are tested at the drive-through site set up by the University of Mississippi Medical Center will get their results quicker because the medical center’s labs can do the COVID-19 tests.

Latorre said hospitals send their tests for patients admitted to their facilities to the Mississippi Department of Health, which can also do the tests.

Presently, he said, the state’s hospitals are doing well.

“We have enough people on staff, we have beds, we have enough ventilators, but if we all get sick at once, and the numbers keep going up, it could be difficult,” Latorre said. Normally, he added, when a person is sick and on a ventilator, they are on for 3-4 days to keep the person healthy “and you then try to wean them off the ventilator.” People with COVID-19, he said, are staying on ventilators up to two weeks, sometimes longer.

“So not only do they use it, they use it longer, and that decreases the number we have available. And the longer they are on, the longer it takes to recuperate,” he said.

Latorre said officials with Merit Health River Region say they are prepared to handle COVID-19. He said, however, if the hospital reaches its capacity it may have to transfer patients to hospitals in Jackson.

To help reduce the load on the clinics, labs and hospitals, “We’re asking patients to be thoughtful; if you have mild symptoms, call your doctor, and if we can manage it from the house, great.

“If you feel you have the symptoms, we want you to isolate yourself in your house for 14 days, and certainly if you meet the criteria — fever of 100.4 or higher, chest pain or difficulty breathing or dry cough — you certainly qualify to be tested, so contact your physician and be tested,” he said.

“Our best offense right now is to stay home as much as we can to limit exposure,” Latorre said. “If we have to go out, for whatever reason, keep in mind the 6 feet of distance, make sure you’re washing your hands, make sure you’re not touching your face when you go home.

“If you’re outside, take off your shoes and leave them outside when you get in your home to eliminate any contamination.”

“Continue the same measures you’ve been doing; don’t give up now, this could continue for the next several weeks, maybe longer, he said.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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