One local person may have tested “presumptive positive” for coronavirus.
Gov. Mike Parson announced late Thursday afternoon he would be heading to Springfield to give a press conference alongside Mayor Ken McClure and health department director Clay Goddard about the second such case statewide.
The announcement came hours after local health department officials announced they had submitted three tests to state labs from people who were exhibiting symptoms that could not be contributed to other causes, such as the flu.
All of those tested had recently traveled or been associated with a confirmed case of COVID-19 and were exhibiting symptoms.
Health department officials have asked those people to self-isolate, health department director Clay Goddard said.
The news came at a press conference Thursday as major events around the community, such as the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade and the National Christian Homeschool Basketball Championship, had been canceled as the viral infectious disease continues to spread across the country.
The only confirmed case in Missouri was found in St. Louis County, where a 20-year-old woman recently returned from studying abroad in hard-hit Italy. Springfield had previously tested four people for the virus, and those came back negative.
The process of testing has come into public focus in recent days as health departments, private labs and testing centers have reported shortages in testing materials.
Findley said last week the local health department received just five test kits from the state, and Goddard said Thursday he had just ordered the maximum of five more from a private lab called LabCorps.
“We are aggressively seeking more test kits,” he said. “The problem is, there is great scarcity and great demand. I want to pledge to you that we’re doing all that we can.”
Goddard said the scarcity was proving to be a challenge with accurately pinpointing the disease.
“We’re playing a game of hide and go seek, but we’re not seeking,” he said. “That is not a place I want to be.”
Goddard said currently the testing criteria will be limited to people with the most severe symptoms and highest risk, and the local health department will be setting up a testing clinic that will be available upon referral from a doctor.
Two private labs are currently allowing doctors to submit tests, but the turnaround is about three days. The state can return results in about six hours, Goddard said Monday.
Local officials hope there would be more tests available soon, but noted that even if tests were widely available, the health department wouldn’t be testing everybody.
“We need to be intelligent and scientifically based about who we test,” he said. “I think the public needs to understand that just because you’re worried doesn’t mean you’re qualified — even if (extra tests) were available.”
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