JEFFERSON CITY – During Thursday's, May 21, COVID-19 briefing, Gov. Mike Parson announced a plan to rapidly increase COVID-19 testing volume to 7,500 tests per day in Missouri.
Expanding testing capacity and volume is one of the four pillars of Missouri’s “Show Me Strong Recovery” Plan.
“We cannot fully recover economically without increasing our testing numbers. We have made great progress over the past month, but we must do more,” Parson said. “The more testing we do, the more data and knowledge we have on the situation in Missouri, and the more confidence and reassurance we can give Missourians as we work through the recovery process.”
The plan announced Thursday focuses on three main testing strategies – box-in outbreaks, sentinel testing and community sampling.
Parson states the state has already been utilizing these strategies and will ramp up efforts even further next week.
“These are three areas that we have the most control over, and they are areas that will help us save lives,” Parson said.
The box-in strategy will focus on congregate living facilities, long-term care facilities specifically, with a target of approximately 1,850 tests per day.
In Missouri, there have been a total of 163 long-term care facilities with at least one positive case confirmed in a resident, staff or both.
Parson states the goal with this strategy is to execute facility-wide testing in those facilities to identify and isolate additional positive cases as quickly as possible.
He states that by “boxing-in” outbreaks in these facilities, this strategy will help keep the virus contained and prevent further spreading.
The goal of sentinel testing is to perform testing on vulnerable populations at state-operated facilities across 28 counties, specifically those overseen by the Department of Corrections, Department of Mental Health, Department of Social Services and the Missouri Veterans Commission.
The testing target for this strategy is approximately 1,440 tests per day over a 10-day period. Performing sentinel testing in these facilities will identify and isolate not only symptomatic individuals but also asymptomatic individuals to keep them from unknowingly spreading the virus within the facility.
To execute community sampling, the state will set up testing sites in various counties across the state. Any Missouri resident, symptomatic or asymptomatic, in these counties who wishes to be tested can do so at these testing sites.
The state has already completed community sampling in 13 counties. For the purpose of this plan, the state will target six additional counties (Boone, Cape Girardeau, Greene, Jackson, Jefferson and St. Charles) over the next 10 days with a daily testing goal of approximately 975 tests per day.
Additionally, the state has delivered 9,000 test collection kits to the St. Louis Region Task Force.
Another 9,000 will be delivered next week to continue broad community sampling.
Selection 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 gives the state a better sense of COVID-19 prevalence in a given area, which will help guide its response and ease uncertainty for Missourians. 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, quick and proactive steps will be taken to keep the virus from spreading further in the community.
Over the next two weeks, the state will aggressively execute on these three testing strategies to reach its goal of 7,500 tests per day. This number accounts for the testing plan announced today as well as testing already taking place on a daily basis. Once Missouri’s overall testing numbers have increased, the state will reevaluate and determine what is needed moving forward.
“Again, I cannot emphasize enough how important testing is to our overall recovery plan. All four pillars of our recovery plan are important, but testing will be the key,” Parson said. “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.”
For more information on Missouri’s recovery plan, visit showmestrong.mo.gov.
For updates on COVID-19 cases, testing, deaths and hospitalizations in Missouri, view the state’s new interactive dashboard.