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Columbia hospitals prepare for more COVID-19 testing

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

Some Mid-Missouri hospitals are expanding testing for the coronavirus after the state Department of Health and Senior Services changed testing criteria.

University of Missouri Health Care expanded testing Monday. Now, patients will not have to answer questions about previous exposure, risk factors or travel history if they are displaying COVID-19 symptoms.

This follows the first community-spread case of the coronavirus in Boone County reported Monday.

Since opening Wednesday, March 18, MU Health Care has conducted 898 tests at the drive-thru testing locations. It has also conducted 581 virtual visits with patients during the same time frame.

MU Health Care Chief Nursing Officer Dr. Mary Beck said they previously had been averaging about 100 tests each day. Yesterday, the same day they changed the testing criteria, Beck said the number of tests spiked.

"Yesterday, it went to over 200 people and we are able to process those..." Beck said. "Those tests are being run today and we should have results by the end of the day."

DHSS also shifted its testing criteria Monday. Dr. Randall Williams, the director of DHSS, said this move is in response to clinicians' and first responders' concerns about the need to make rapid diagnoses.

"Our new criteria reflects CDC's new recommendations to ensure that we have testing available for high-risk groups to help clinicians and first responders safely provide service to the people of Missouri," Williams said.

Boone Hospital Center is testing anyone who has a doctor's order. Madison Loethen, a digital marketing and communications consultant at the hospital, said this will not change in light of the DHSS guidance change.

Loethen also said they have tested more than 300 patients so far. As of right now, they currently have 392 beds in the hospital, of which 135 are full.

"Right now we have the capacity, but if needed, we have a surge plan that can be implemented to address any staffing, space or equipment needs," Loethen said.

Eric Maze, media relations at University of Missouri Health Care, said they have capacity at MU Health. University Hospital has 396 beds.

"MU Health Care has flexibility with its multiple hospitals and clinics," Maze said. "We are constantly monitoring space needs and considerations, and we have the ability to make adjustments to open up additional beds in certain units if needs arise."

The Columbia/Boone County Health Department said Monday that 20 people had tested positive for COVID-19 in the county. State officials said they have confirmed 183 cases statewide.

Check back for more on this developing story or watch ABC 17 News at 5 and 6.

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Molly Stawinoga

Molly Stawinoga is ABC 17’s weekend morning anchor, reporter and producer at ABC 17 News. Molly joined the news team in 2017 while studying political science, journalism and Spanish at the University of Missouri. She is originally from DeKalb, Illinois.

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