COVID-19 Testing Device

Northwest Health Services Interim CEO Rodney Hummer said he has been told the plan is to eventually test area nursing homes at least once a week.

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Expanded testing across the state will be a key component of Missouri’s recovery plan for battling COVID-19.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced the pieces of a three-pronged plan at his daily press briefing Thursday afternoon.

The first part of the plan will involve “box-in” testing, which will aim for mass testing focused on assisted-living and other high-risk facilities that have had a positive case within 15 days. The hope is to test everyone within the facility.

The second part of the plan will be sentinel testing, which will take place at state-owned facilities, such as prisons. These tests will be done for individuals in the facilities who could be asymptomatic.

The final part of the plan is community sampling, which will be done statewide in different counties and allow anyone to be tested. Five hundred tests are scheduled to be performed in Andrew County on Friday as part of this plan, in collaboration with Mosaic Medical Center-Maryville and Northwest Health Services.

The goal is to build up to 7,500 coronavirus tests per day statewide. Parson said everyone at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities will be tested, with a goal of 1,850 tests at those locations per day. Another 1,440 tests per day are planned at prisons, mental health facilities and other state-run housing.

Northwest Health Services has been providing testing with mobile testing sites such as the one it helped operate for mass testing at Triumph Foods. Interim Chief Executive Officer Rodney Hummer said Northwest Health Services has six mobile health testing teams.

Hummer said he has been told nursing homes and long-term care facilities could be tested weekly at some point.

“Some guidance on that has come out, and I know it’s changed multiple times, the most recent is that they would potentially like them (nursing homes), tested every week,” Hummer said.

According to the St. Joseph Health Department’s daily briefing, the lowest number of positive cases in Buchanan County involved those 80 and older. However, in the state of Missouri, the 80-plus group is the highest age category for positive cases, according to the Department of Health and Senior Services with 1,316 cases out of 11,340 total.

Hummer, who worked in nursing homes for 11 years, said he has had conversations with local administrators of such facilities, and he believes the low numbers among elderly residents here are due to proactive steps taken early by the residential facilities.

“We’re really blessed to have great nursing homes in our area with seasoned administrators who know how to react and respond to something like this,” Hummer said. “That’s probably why you’ve seen little numbers in our area because of great nursing homes with great administrators and staff.”

Dr. Randall Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said at the governor’s briefing Thursday that the process to test those in nursing homes will be done on an ongoing basis as part of the plan.

The Associated Press

contributed to this story.

Clayton Anderson can be reached at clayton.anderson@newspressnow.com. Follow him on twitter: @NPNowAnderson.