Dr. Alan E. Jones Chair and Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) spoke to the Rotary Club of North Jackson at the club’s June 16, 2020, meeting. Effective July 7, Dr. Jones will become Assistant Vice Chancellor of UMMC. The topic of Dr. Jones’ presentation was how UMMC prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic.


Dr. Jones is a 1994 graduate of Millsaps College where he studied Molecular Biology. He is a 1999 graduate of UMMC. Following UMMC did his residency at the Carolinas Medical Center (CMC) which was followed by a fellowship at CMC and MS in Public Health Coursework at University of North Carolina Charlotte. He remained on staff at CMC until 2011 when he returned to UMMC. 

With respect to COVID-19, Dr. Jones said that in December 2019 & January 2020, UMMC recognized that COVID-19 was coming to Mississippi and that they needed to be prepared to deal with it. In late January, the COVID -19 team was mobilized. By early March the clinical response was set up. They recognized that the virus is highly contagious and that it needed to be contained to protect both the patients and medical staff. They established a 3 level approach to addressing the Virus:

  • Level 1 - Conventional - continue with normal operations

  • Level 2 - Contingency - not normal, but also not substandard operations

  • Level 3 - Crisis - likely substandard operations 

The team saw the crisis in New York City and Washington State and about to happen nearby in New Orleans and recognized it would soon be in Mississippi and all over the US. At that point, Mississippi was 2-4 weeks behind the rest of the US. All elective and urgent procedures were canceled. Telehealth was extended to provide care to patients.

Post spring break, any employee who had traveled to high-risk areas were considered to have been exposed and was quarantined for 14 days. The labor pool was re-deployed to contend with the virus. The team focused heavily on the supply chain. Items that were normally readily available, were suddenly in short supply. UMMC was fortunate in that based on the 2009 flu epidemic experience, it had sufficient ventilators. They had also learned that the patient rooms had to operate in a negative pressure environment to prevent spreading the virus. COVID units and COVID staff members were designated. 

UMMC developed a COVID-19 test in 2 - 2 1/2 weeks. One of those tests has a 49 minute turnaround time (TAT) and the other a 6 hr. TAT. These tests have helped make testing more available and more widespread in Mississippi. 

As time passed this spring UMMC has developed protocols for making ethical, potentially end of life decisions. The team has focused on planning for a 30-month response to the virus in the event an effective vaccine isn't developed. At this point, nearly 10 weeks into the process, no UMMC healthcare workers have been contaminated with the virus due to the procedures and processes that have been developed. The system is now considered to be reliable and reproducible. The result of the stable process is that on 28 May, UMMC resumed performing urgent procedures. Elective surgeries were resumed one week later, and now they are back to normal operations, except there are still 60 patients in the COVID Unit. The maximum was 80.

We thank Dr. Jones for his presentation and for his service to the citizens of Mississippi. The following photo is from his faculty profile.