Boonville City Council discusses local COVID-19 testing

Chris Bowie
A COVID-19 particle is pictured in this image provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Although there were many topics of discussion at the last Boonville City Council meeting Aug. 3, no topic was discussed more than COVID-19 testing in Cooper County.

Although the Cooper County Public Health Department has been testing since March, council member Albert Turner said he feels very strongly about testing in the county.

“We need to act in the best interest of our community and I don’t believe we are,” he said. “I really don’t know that we need a testing center [locally] that’s seven days a week, eight hours a day but I do think we should look into having some kind of testing facility for at least 2-3 days a week.”

Boonville City Administrator Kate Fjell said in the past the city has relied on the county health department to be the guide.

“That’s their background,”Fjell said of the county health department. “They did not get, it’s my understanding, that when the money for testing came down from the feds and the state that they did not receive any of that funding and I don’t know why.”

Th department did get some through the donations of people, Fjell said.

“This is partially what happens when you don’t have a hospital in your town,” she said

Testing is at hospitals, health centers and urgent care centers, she said. So, the challen is Boonville does not have a hospital that can do these tests.

Boonville didn’t apply for relief bill funding in Round 1 but recently submitted an application for Round 2 to the county.

Relief bill funds can be received through the end of the year and have to apply to COVID-related expenses.

While the city has applied for funding, there is no guarantee it will receive it, Fjell said. The city could work in collaboration with the county commission and the health department, she said.

Fjell met with the health department in March about doing a drive through testing site at Rolling Hills but that would only be a band-aid to the bigger problem, she said, because they only come for a day or two days.

The possibility of partnering with University of Missouri Health Care or Boone Hospital was discussed

“I want to know why the funding didn’t come directly to the health department?” Turner said.

Funding went to counties, which they then decide how to distribute, Fjell said.

Residents only seem to be going to Columbia, Turner said. Those without transportation just have to live with it, which is a bad situation, he said.

The easiest fix is for the city to offer transportation services to testing facilities.

There is going to be a spike as students return to school and in the fall and winter, Turner said.

“I think if somebody believes they will be affected than they ought to have a place to go right away to get tested,”Turner said. “Ithink that’s the piece we are probably missing. Even if a person thinks they have been affected, they don’t know where to go.”

Boonville Mayor Ned Beach said typically that coordination comes out of the Cooper County Health Department.

The county health department possibly could hold a one- or two-day testing event in Boonville, Fjell said. That is part of Gov. Mike Parson’s Phase 2 strategy is to have targeted testing in places that are seeing a growth case loads and that is exactly what is happening here in Cooper County, she said.

“If I feel Ihave been affected than I should be able to go get a test,”Turner said. “In my mind the money is there and if it’s there why can’t we use it. The money was appropriated for this purpose. It’s just a matter of us making our case that we need it here.”

The health center can do testing by appointment only at its location.

Individuals are interviewed over the phone prior to receiving an appointment time, and the health center has testing options available, Health Administrator Melanie Hutton said.

The first is rapid antigen testing with results coming back in 10 minutes. The test will detect acute and past infection. However, the test is dependent upon how fast your body produces antibodies to the virus. Antibody response is not as quick as using the PCR nasal swab that detects the virus antigen. Results from the PCR nasal swab from Lab Corp. take between 4-5 days to return.

Testing at the health center is free. Individuals are tested in their vehicles. Residents can call 660-882-2626 to be screened for an appointment.

Drive-thru testing also is available MU-North Campus of the I-70 Business Loop in Columbia and Boone Hospital clinic. Both are PCR nasal testing and results take approximately 24 hours to return.

Individuals are expected to quarantine while waiting for PCR covid antigen tests regardless of testing site, Hutton said.

The news from the health center is a good start and meets the needs for at least right now, Turner said.

“I just feel very passionate about testing here,” Turner said. “Ithought there was a need for the testing here rather than people in our community having to travel maybe to a neighboring county to get tested. I thought it was appropriate to have it here in Cooper County. I just feel my role as a councilman is that if there is a need than put that on the table and let’s discuss it.”

As of Wednesday, the center announced six new cases of COVID-19 for a total of 154 to date.There are 33 active cases and 119 recovered with two deaths.