JEFFERSON CITY — Gov. Mike Parson discussed details about two new COVID-19 testing procedures coming to Missouri during a Wednesday news conference.
Four new saliva testing machines, developed by Washington University, will arrive at the Missouri State Public Health Laboratory this week, Parson said. The machines will be distributed across the state, though officials said they do not yet know who will receive the machines first.
Results from the new saliva tests will be available within a few hours of testing and will ideally be communicated to patients within one day, according to an Aug. 26 article from the Washington University School of Medicine.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services also expects to receive approximately 3 million Abbot rapid tests from the federal government. Parson said that a total of around 150 million Abbot tests will be distributed nationwide by the end of 2020.
The Abbot test is a “rapid, reliable, highly portable and affordable tool for detecting active coronavirus infections at massive scale,” according to an Aug. 26 news release from the company.
Abbot test results are expected to be available within 15 minutes of administration. They must be administered by a medical professional, DHSS communications director Lisa Cox said.
“The distribution of those will go to our long-term care facilities; they will go out to our historically Black universities and also to our K-12 schools,” DHSS director Randall Williams said.
MU not testing enough
Williams said that in terms of MU’s approach to COVID-19, he would like to see more people being tested.
“I have incredible respect for Mun (Choi) and what he’s doing,” Williams said. “But at this point, we would like people to get tested — as many as can get tested.”
Williams cited Missouri’s capacity of about 100,000 tests per week.
Parson emphasized that Missouri’s seven-day positivity rate has decreased to 12.2%.
“Although 18- to 24-year-olds are still the highest age group for positive cases, that positivity rate is decreasing as well and looks to be turning the corner,” Parson said.
Williams said cases in the 18-to-24 age group are plateauing, but Missouri has been part of a regional trend. .
“What we’re seeing is a Midwest increase in cases, with Arkansas, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas,” Williams said.
He referred to decreased COVID-19 fatality rates, which topped 7% in April and May. Fatality rates have now dropped to 0.8% in August and 0.3% in September, Parson said.
The cumulative fatality rate is 1.6%, Parson said.
Williams explained that it’s important to determine where most COVID-19 cases are coming from. He said many cases stem from “middle-sized communities — that’s where our cases are. In fact, not so much of what we’re seeing is St. Louis and Kansas City.”
Williams reinforced the governor’s overall message: “hand-washing, social distancing and wearing a mask,” Williams said.
He expressed that just wearing a mask can give people a false sense of security.
“You gotta wear it over your nose, and it’s not just any mask,” Williams said.
When asked about the issues with the late reporting of a large number of negative tests in Boone County, Williams said that he didn’t want people to have the impression that it’s OK for those things to happen.
“While I do think that we’ll probably see perhaps more of that than we wish, it’s not an excuse not to go back and figure out why that happened and try to prevent it from coming in the future.”
Parson described a new policy in Missouri’s veterans’ homes: hand-holding stations. The stations will allow veterans to “have direct contact with loved ones while still following COVID-19 safety protocols,” Parson said.
This will benefit veterans who struggle with dementia and depression, Parson said.
“It is very heartwarming and encouraging to see some of our veterans and their families reconnect in person for the first time in many months,” Parson said.