State officials hope to complete about 7,500 coronavirus tests daily starting next week. During today’s briefing, Gov. Mike Parson says the plan will focus on three main testing strategies – box-in outbreaks, sentinel testing, and community sampling.

“This will allow us to keep the virus contained by identifying and isolating additional positive cases as quickly as possible,” says Parson. “Once our testing numbers are up, we will be able to re-evaluate and determine what is needed moving forward. 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.”

Gov. Mike Parson

The box-in approach will target long-term care sites, including nursing homes and assisted living centers for senior citizens, by testing staff and residents facility-wide. The goal with this strategy is to identify and isolate additional positive cases as quickly as possible. By “boxing-in” outbreaks in these places, this strategy aims to keep the virus contained and prevent further spreading.

Parson says 163 Missouri long-term care centers have had at least one COVID-19 case.

Sentinel testing is planned for next week at state-operated veterans nursing homes, prisons, and mental health centers in 28 counties over a ten-day period. Performing the periodic testing helps to identify and isolate not only symptomatic individuals but also asymptomatic individuals to keep them from unknowingly spreading the virus within the facility.

Community test sampling is also planned next week in six counties over ten days, including in Boone, Cape Girardeau, Greene, Jackson, Jefferson, and St. Charles. State Health and Senior Services Director Randall Williams says election for community sampling is based on locations with the ability to draw participants from a broader region as well as locations that have expressed a need for additional testing resources. It is not based on the number of COVID-19 cases in these counties.

Community sampling is intended to give the state a better sense of COVID-19 prevalence in a given area to help guide its response and ease uncertainty. Parson says if prevalence is low, this will help reassure citizens that it is safe to begin re-engaging in the community and returning to somewhat normal operations. If prevalence is higher, Parson says steps will be taken to keep the virus from spreading further in the community but did not elaborate on what this would look like.

How’s the testing being paid for?

“All the testing is pretty well right now going to be paid out of the CARES Act for COVID-19,” says Parson. “There’s a lot of money on the local levels for testing – that’s what we’re really emphasizing that money they’re sending out. So the local levels are going to be responsible too. The state is not going to come in and do their testing for them for free. If they have the funds and the resources to do it, whether it be the counties or the health departments, they’re going to have to help with that. Number two, when we go looking kind of in the private sector when we’re going around there, if the companies have the ability to pay for it through the insurance companies, they’re going to have to pay for that also.”

Due to a glitch, Kansas City has been left empty-handed when it comes to federal coronavirus funding and its corresponding counties don’t seem to want to play ball and share the aid Washington sent to them. Parson says he’s willing to help with testing in Kansas City, but he doesn’t want to open up a can of worms.

“We’re not going to get in the middle of turf battles up there. I mean that’s an issue up there between the counties and the city and that region,” says Parson. “So I’m not sure if that’s my place to fight that battle. We’re here in a support role to help them. I don’t think the state is here to take over the local levels and tell them what to do and what not to do.”

On Thursday, an informal group appointed by the governor to advise him how to spend CARES Act funding coming into the state held a public meeting. State Representative David Wood, R-Versailles, takes issue with local health departments footing the bill for testing services through local CARES ACT funding.

“Basically, you have no plans of sending money down, even though they are doing your work and they are funded through you, you’re having them compete for the dollars that are sent to the county,” asks Wood. “I’ve made that point in budget committee numbers of times that if Health and Senior Services is receiving additional funds from COVID money, whatever pot it’s coming from and they are not passing on to the people doing the work, that to me is … (mumbled expletive).”

State Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick says Missouri has about $1.5 billion in federal funding to work with after buying personal protective equipment for state health and frontline workers.

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