Saline and Mississippi counties will be the newest site of the state’s “boxed in” testing strategy.
The strategy will target testing towards areas experiencing ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks even as other parts of the state are resuming some limited economic activities.
Saline County health officials and Katy Trail Community Health will be offering 400 state-supplied tests tomorrow and Wednesday at the Saline County Health Department.
Mississippi County in the Bootheel will also offer access to state-supplied testing. Residents will not have to have a prescription or show proof of symptoms to receive the test, but will be required to register.
According to information from Fitzgibbon Hospital, 168 Saline County residents have tested positive for COVID-19, which puts the county’s infection rate at 738 cases per 100,000 residents, more than double any other county in the state.
Saline is one of several counties dealing with an outbreak tied to local food production plants.
Meanwhile in Mississippi County, 23 residents have tested positive for COVID-19. The first cases were announced last week after inmates of the Southeastern Correctional Center in Charleston tested positive for the illness.
The state deployed community testing late last week in Buchanan County north of Kansas City, where several employees of the Triumph Foods plant tested positive for the disease. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services made 2,800 tests available to St. Joseph residents.
“We now have the testing capability to go in and immediately start testing at food processing facilities when a positive test is received,” state Health Director Randall Williams said. “This is an example of our strategy going forward of using our increased testing capabilities to limit the spread of the infection.”
Statewide, Missouri testing rates have lagged behind the national average, but Gov. Mike Parson said Monday that will change in coming days.
Missouri has tested about 1.2 percent of the state’s population and ranks 37th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia in testing rates as of Monday afternoon.
Among Missouri and its bordering states, four — Arkansas, Illinois, Oklahoma and Tennessee — have higher testing rates.
Although statewide, the criteria to receive a test from the state lab remains the same — residents must be showing symptoms to receive a test from the state lab — the state will be broadening test requirements in highly affected areas.
Thursday Williams said both Saline and nearby Moniteau County would receive testing equipment that would provide results in 15 minutes. The pair will likely receive the equipment in the coming week.
Meanwhile, Fitzgibbon Hospital in Marshall has administered 1,693 tests, 1,307 of which to Saline County residents.
“We were responding to the community and we are still seeing a demand for testing and we continue to see patients from outside of our county,” Fitzgibbon Hospital’s Manager of Business Development Amy Weber said.
Weber said although the hospital prefers people have a doctor’s prescription to receive a test, the facility has not been turning people without one away.
“The main thing is that we’re here to serve our community and we like for them to have a doctor’s order but that’s not always the case,” she said “So if they believe that they have been exposed … and they need a test then that’s what we’re here to do.”
Katy Trail Community Health, a federally qualified health center headquartered in Pettis County, is also assisting with testing.
CEO Chris Steward said the facility tested 130 ConAgra employees. ConAgra food plant in Marshall was forced to temporarily close after several employees tested positive for COVID-19.
“Our charge as a community federally qualified health center is to collaborate with local organizations, mainly it will be health departments, to do as much testing as we possibly can and help support them in their efforts to do contact tracing,” Stewart said.
Meanwhile in Moniteau County, Moniteau County Health Center Environmental Specialist said although there is no hospital in the county, those who have needed a test have been able to receive one. St. Mary’s Hospital in Jefferson City provided tests to an assisted living facility on Friday.
Stewart said partnerships like these, in addition to state-supplied testing, are helping rural communities meet the mounting needs caused by local outbreaks.
“That will be our charge for the next … I can’t tell you how long it will be,” Stewart said.
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