Long-term care facilities, state-operated facilities and community testing sites will ramp up COVID-19 testing, Gov. Mike Parson announced Thursday.
The increased testing will focus on groups, rather than individuals. During a news conference, Parson said his goal is to proactively isolate those who test positive for the coronavirus and prevent it from spreading.
Combined with clinical tests conducted by physicians, the goal is to test 7,500 people a day.
“I cannot emphasize enough how important testing is to the overall recovery plan,” said Parson during a news conference. “The more testing we do, the more knowledge we have on what the situation in Missouri actually looks like and the better equipped we are to move forward.”
The first strategy is the “box-in” testing, which focuses on long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes. This method will require facility-wide testing in places where at least one staff member or resident tests positive for COVID-19.
Currently in Missouri, there are 163 long-term care facilities where at least one staff member or resident has tested positive, many of which have already had facility testing.
Similar to this method, testing will also increase in state-owned facilities across 28 counties. This strategy, called sentinel testing, will also isolate the virus in places with large congregations.
These include veterans homes, prisons and behavioral health facilities, said Robert Williams, the director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
Lastly, officials will create community sampling sites across six additional counties where anyone can be tested for the coronavirus, not just those showing symptoms. The goal will be to know the prevalence of the virus in these areas in order to determine the best ways to continue reopening the economy, Parson said.
Williams said sampling will now be done in Boone, Jackson, St. Charles, Jefferson, Cape Girardeau, Andrew, Pemiscot and New Madrid counties.
Parson emphasized that these counties were chosen because their healthcare facilities serve a broader region, not because that area has an outbreak.
The comprehensive testing will primarily be funded by federal money from the CARES Act allocated to local communities or a company’s private insurance, said Parson. Missouri also received an additional $135 million in federal funds to assist with COVID-19 testing.
While these initial strategies will be done over a two week period, it will help make future decisions during the upcoming school year and flu season in the fall, said Parson.
“I think there’s going to be some remarkable things done with some of the drugs that are out there, hopefully a vaccine, but right now that’s hopeful thinking,” he said. “I got to prepare if we don’t have that.”