COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
As COVID-19 cases continue to impact everyone, county and statewide, testing in Missouri approaches a new milestone, while health officials expect another possible increase in cases soon.
According to the Department of Public Health and Senior Services COVID-19 dashboard, as of Thursday, Missouri approaches two million Missourians that have been tested for COVID-19.
Dr. Randall Williams, the state health department director said this milestone is a testament to Missouri making testing availability the foundation of it's COVID-19 strategy.
Williams said the state health department has been very purposeful about testing and have built much of their policy around it.
“I think that milestone is simply that reflection of our continued commitment,” Williams said. “Both increase the number of tests, the number of opportunities to be tested and the more user-friendliness of the tests.”
Williams said approaching this large number of tests given is a testament that the state health department made it a goal to greatly increase the amount of testing, and this shows they have been able to accomplish that.
Although in Boone County, the local health department has seen a low demand in testing recently.
“We don't really know why testing is down,” said Scott Clardy, the Columbia/Boone County Health Department assistant director. “Except that it appears to be a testing demand issue and not a testing availability issue.”
While MU Associate Chief Medical Officer Mark Wakefield agreed that the testing demand seems to be low but he said it’s also stable.
Wakefield said the number of people getting tested is low compared to what the county saw at the beginning of September when thousands of students returned to school, but looking at a view from three to six months ago the county is about the same.
Wakefield said there are still around 300 people getting tested at MU Health Care’s drive-thru testing site, but not all of those people are from Boone County.
If you compare MU Health Care drive-thru averages from last week to this week, last week's daily average was 304 tests done. As of Thursday, there have been an average of 380 tests taken per day so far this week.
“We have the capacity to do testing,” said Wakefield. “And we have the supplies we have the reagents. We have the access points. So whether people need to be tested that's influenced by whether they have symptoms exposure. But I think we have the capacity to do that testing.”
Wakefield believes Boone County will see some fluctuations as people have exposures or have symptoms that justify testing.
“I think we'll see a steady number currently,” said Wakefield. “But then as the weather gets colder and the days get shorter and we spend more time inside, and the general upper respiratory infection season becomes more prevalent we may have an increase again. So I think it's natural to have ebbs and flows.”
Wakefield said MU Health Care still has between 20 and 40 new diagnoses a day and he said he believes that we will continue seeing that trend for the foreseeable future.
Wakefield said he believes health officials will approach COVID in the fall and winter a little differently than they would approach the flu.
“Once the flu season starts,” said Wakefield. “And there's an established prevalence of the flu in the community providers don't feel compelled to do testing as frequently because they can identify the symptoms. We know its prevalent management is going to be the same. But our mindset as we learn more and more about COVID as is likely to be. If you think you need testing it should be done.”