Lumumba: More COVID-19 Tests, Hazard Pay, Hotels for Infected Residents | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Lumumba: More COVID-19 Tests, Hazard Pay, Hotels for Infected Residents

The City of Jackson has acquired 6,000 additional COVID-19 tests, will give hazard pay to first responders, and is launching a hotline and shelter for infected residents without a way to quarantine, Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba said April 7. Photo courtesy City of Jackson

The City of Jackson has acquired 6,000 additional COVID-19 tests, will give hazard pay to first responders, and is launching a hotline and shelter for infected residents without a way to quarantine, Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba said April 7. Photo courtesy City of Jackson

The City of Jackson is purchasing 6,000 additional COVID-19 tests for use on first responders and local jail inmates, providing hazard pay to first responders and partnering with a local hotel to offer shelter to people who are infected, Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba announced yesterday. The City is launching a symptom tracker and a hotline that residents can call to inquire about testing, symptoms, quarantine shelter and other novel coronavirus-related concerns.

Speaking outside City Hall Tuesday, Lumumba urged all Jackson residents to wear masks, per the Centers for Disease Control’s recent recommendation, and to continue practicing stringent hand-washing hygiene and social distancing while in public. He also urged Jacksonians to stay indoors and limit trips, including to essential businesses even if they are open.

“This is considered one of the most critical weeks in the nationwide fight against COVID-19,” the mayor explained during a press conference. “We are expecting that this may be the week that we may hit the highest number of cases and that we may hit the peak in the nation, and so we’re asking people to wear those masks,” he said.

The tests and hotline will go live this Friday, Lumumba told reporters. The City will distribute 5,000 of the 6,000 tests through a partnership with Jackson-Hinds Comprehensive Health Center, targeting residents who are most vulnerable and in need of testing.

Testing, Protecting and Honoring First Responders

The City is using the remaining 1,000 tests on first responders and inmates at Hinds County jails, who are at high risk of contracting COVID-19 due to crowded jail conditions.

“We will be entering into an interlocal agreement in order to ensure that the inmate population can be tested because that is a very vulnerable population based on the close confines in which they live,” Lumumba said.

City spokeswoman Candice Cole confirmed that, under the agreement, the City will give the tests to Hinds County, which will determine how to administer the tests in dialogue with health professionals. “There are enough that should be able to serve the inmates that are in need,” Cole added.

First responders, including police officers, too, are at heightened risk of contracting the disease because they are frequently out in the field and in close contact with the public.

The City will also issue first responders—police and firefighters specifically—a one-time hazard payment of $600 before the end of April.

“This is a population amongst us that not only run in the line of danger in order to protect us at all times but at a critical moment like this,” Lumumba said.

“We are well aware that not only have we had unfortunate circumstances of some of our first responders contracting the virus nationwide, (but) this population has been disproportionately affected by the virus based on them dealing with people with ... a high suspicion of having the virus,” he said.

On March 27, Jackson Police Chief James E. Davis confirmed that a JPD officer had contracted the virus.

Lumumba is asking Jackson residents to place signs of support for Jackson and Hinds County first responders in their windows or, if they are driving, honk their cars, on Friday, April 10 at noon.

COVID-19 Hotline and Symptom Tracker, Quarantine Shelter

Friday is also the day the City is receiving the batch of COVID-19 tests and launching its COVID-19 hotline and symptom tracker on the City of Jackson website. Residents will be able to find information about the tracker under the “COVID-19: Fight Together, Stand Apart” information hub on the City website’s main page, the mayor said. Residents can reach the Jackson hotline at 601-586-3067 or 866-375-2819.

“This symptom tracker will allow us to better coordinate our response to those that are infected with the virus,” Lumumba said. He encouraged anyone who is experiencing symptoms like a dry cough, fever or shortness of breath, or who believes he or she may have the virus to use the symptom tracker hotline and other COVID-19 resources on the City’s website.

The purpose of the data collection is to allow the City to identify COVID-19 hotspots on a City map and provide relief to communities that need it most and might be experiencing higher-than-average infection rates, the mayor said. He added that any resident-reported COVID-19 data that the City collects will remain private and abide by Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, protocols.

“This data will be protected. We will be working with medical professionals to ensure that HIPPA rights are not violated, and there is a script that maintains that level of discretion that we ask all of those who are taking the calls abide by,” Lumumba said.

The hotline will also direct people who are in need of quarantine shelter toward a local hotel. The City has partnered with an area hotel to provide a place to stay for anyone who has symptoms but does not have a way to quarantine themselves, such as an infected person who needs to maintain distance from other family members or the homeless population.

The mayor declined to give the name of any participating hotels. “I will not identify those hotels for HIPAA reasons,” he said to a reporter. “I don’t want a stigma of place on those individuals who are seeking safe harbor while they are getting better.”

‘The City of Jackson Is Being Proactive’

“I want to reassert and state once again that this virus is serious,” Lumumba said. While people without underlying health conditions may not be at as high a risk of suffering complications from the disease, the mayor said, the risk of transmission is still high and Jacksonians must protect themselves and their neighbors. He pointed out that those with underlying conditions or who are elderly are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 complications, including death.

“We want you to know that the City of Jackson is being proactive in our response to this virus,” the mayor said. He reminded the public that shelter-in-place orders are still in effect and the City is committed to cracking down on violations, especially during this critical week.

“There have been some violators, and there have been some citations that have been issued based on those violations. We are taking this very seriously, and we will most especially be vigilant during this upcoming week as we know that this is a critical week in the fight (against) COVID-19,” he said.

Read the JFP’s coverage of COVID-19 at Get more details on preventive measures here. Read about announced closings and delays in Mississippi here. Read MEMA’s advice for a COVID-19 preparedness kit here.

Email information about closings and other vital related logistical details to [email protected].

Email state reporter Nick Judin, who is covering COVID-19 in Mississippi, at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @nickjudin. Seyma Bayram is covering the outbreak inside the capital city and in the criminal-justice system. Email her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @seymabayram0.

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