JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
Gov. Mike Parson touted a new COVID-19 saliva test Wednesday while the state's health director said he is recommending Missouri not follow new CDC guidance that limits testing.
Parson said the test was a "major development in testing technology" developed by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis. The test has the potential to boost the number of tests in the state and deliver results more quickly.
Watch a replay of Gov. Parson's briefing in the player below.
The governor said the new development will help the state expand its already-growing testing numbers. The state was performing about 15,000 tests per week in early April. About 90,000 tests per week are now performed.
His opponent for governor, Democratic State Auditor Nicole Galloway, criticized Parson just a couple of hours later when she talked about her plans to fight COVID-19 during a Columbia stop.
Watch Galloway's appearance in the player below.
At Parson's briefing, Dr. Randall Williams, head of the state Department of Health and Senior Services, said in response to a reporter's question that he will not recommend the state change its testing strategy to be in line with new CDC guidelines.
The CDC on Monday posted new guidelines saying people without symptoms of COVID-19 should not be tested for the novel coronavirus, even if they've been exposed to the virus.
Parson also highlighted the state's 6.9 percent July unemployment rate, a drop of nearly a point compared to June and more than 3 points below the national average.
Parson and Williams said that while new cases are growing, fewer of those testing positive for COVID-19 are showing severe symptoms as more young people contract the virus. However, Williams said the disease can still cause major medical problems in young people, relaying a story of a 24-year-old with pneumonia and a blood clot.
Parson said the fatality rate of COVID-19 cases has dropped from about 7 percent in April and May to about 0.5 percent so far in August.
"This is a good sign," Parson said. "And we must continue to stay focused on the health and safety of our families, our friends and our neighbors."
Missouri has logged 76,636 positive cases and 1,440 deaths during the pandemic.
Boone County has reported 2,065 cases. Of those 424 are active and six people have died.
Parson encouraged Missourians to wear masks, practice social distancing and wash their hands. He has so far refused to create a statewide mask mandate, drawing fire from political opponents such as Galloway.
Galloway said a mask mandate is part of her COVID-19 plan.
“Models have shown that widespread mask wearing can reduce future strain on our hospitals and will reduce the number of people that will die in the future due to COVID-19," she said.
Galloway criticized Parson for not implementing a statewide mask order in Columbia on Wednesday. The best way to help the economic recovery and deal with other issues facing the state is to stop the novel coronavirus, she said.
Galloway said Parson has pushed for schools to open despite the accelerated spread of the virus this summer. She said she would use a data-driven approach to opening schools patterned after the Minnesota model employed by Columbia Public Schools.
Returning to school safely is possible with the right person in charge, she said.
"Our school districts can do these things, with support from a governor, and her administration," Galloway said.
She said if schools reopen too soon the end result is another year marked by all-online classes.
“What governor parson doesn't seem to understand, is we are not going to get our economy back on track, get our schools fully reopened for in-person learning, won’t stabilize our budget so we can deal with these other priorities until we control and contain the spread of the coronavirus,” Galloway said.
The plan also calls for a state-level response team to assist counties in deploying CARES Act money, specifically for contact tracing and PPE.
Look for updates to this developing story here and on ABC 17 News at 5 and 6.