Nearly 9% of the people tested in Southwest Missouri by the Missouri National Guard during free drive-through testing events in June in Jasper, Newton, McDonald and Barry counties were positive for the virus that causes COVID-19.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services released the results Wednesday. The state tested 2,195 people with 197 positives.
Jasper County Health Department Director Tony Moehr said the results should have already been incorporated into results that are being released daily by the state and county health departments, because the results are sometimes turned around within 24 to 48 hours. He also said the results will be recorded in the county of residence for the person tested, meaning if someone from Barton or Lawrence County came for the testing in Carthage, the result would be recorded there and not Jasper County.
He said 753 people were tested in Jasper County June 29-30, with 92 positives, and the state is hoping to do an additional breakdown of the results.
The testing, conducted June 26-30, was part of a combined local, state and federal effort to get control of a spike in cases in the region. The tests were open to any Missouri resident — county residency was not required. Testing took place at the McDonald County High School in Anderson, Rocketdyne Church of Christ in Neosho, and at Memorial Hall in Carthage. Lines at some of the testing sites were sometimes several blocks long.
Residents did not have to be showing symptoms or need a referral to be tested.
Some of the spike in the region has been linked to workers at food processing plants, and DHSS and local officials implemented a “box in” strategy to contain the virus locally. That approach involved comprehensive testing, isolating infected people, locating all contacts of the infected people and having those contacts self-quarantine for 14 days. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also sent a team to Southwest Missouri last month to help state and local health officials investigate the outbreak.
“We continue to appreciate the many people choosing to get tested, and we are grateful for our partners with the Missouri National Guard and local public health agencies for making these events so user-friendly,” Randall Williams, director of DHSS, said in a statement.
At the beginning of June, there were 52 cases and one death in the Joplin Metropolitan Area, which includes all of Jasper and Newton counties. On Tuesday, there were more than 1,650 cases and 16 deaths in the same area, with 12 of those deaths among patients who had tested positive at a Joplin nursing home.
At the start of June, McDonald County had 20 confirmed cases of COVID-19; on Tuesday, it had more than 800 cases, many tied to the Tyson Foods poultry processing plant in Noel, where widespread testing was conducted late in June. At that time, Barry County had nine cases; on Tuesday, it had 81.
For a two-week period in late June and early July, the Joplin area had the highest average daily growth rate of COVID-19 cases in the nation, peaking at nearly 16%, according to the Dartmouth Atlas Project. On Wednesday, Joplin ranked 81st among the more than 300 Hospital Referral Regions in the country,, with an average daily growth rate of 3.5%.
Another round of community testing is to begin July 18. Details on those tests have not been released.
To register for community testing events in Missouri, visit health.mo.gov/communitytest or call 877-435-8411. Translation services are available.