With Missouri’s rate of new COVID-19 cases and percentage of positive test results among the highest anywhere in the nation, area residents may be looking for testing sites out of an abundance of caution.

Missouri on Friday reported 1,485 new cases of the novel coronavirus, bringing the total to more than 129,000 since the pandemic first took root in the country. The state’s death total is now over 2,000.

Among six counties in Southwest Missouri, including the city of Joplin, there have been 8,427 positive tests and more than 100 deaths, including two new deaths announced Friday in Jasper and Newton counties and another Saturday in Jasper County.

As the demand for COVID-19 testing increases throughout the Joplin region, health officials are searching for newer, more efficient ways to cut down turnaround times between initial throat or nasal swabs and obtaining results.

Locally, there are a number of COVID-19 testing sites up and running in the Joplin area.

Mercy Hospital Joplin

Established Mercy patients who are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms — primarily fever, cough and shortness of breath — can contact their primary care provider’s office for a visit. Any patient with symptoms can proceed to any of the hospital chain’s walk-in locations for immediate evaluation. Those locations include:

• Mercy Convenient Care: 1717 S. Range Line Road, Suite B, Joplin, 417-623-2207.

• Mercy Convenient Care: 202 E. 50th Street, Joplin, 417-556-3400.

• Mercy Convenient Care: 6151 N. Main Street, Stone’s Corner, 417-556-5350.

• Mercy Family Medicine: 2550 Lusk Drive, Neosho, 417-451-2060.

According to Mercy officials, testing for both Mercy and non-Mercy patients is offered at the discretion of the provider. Turnaround on results for point-of-care testing — available in all Mercy Joplin primary care locations sometime next week, with the exception of the Galena (Kansas) Family Medicine — will be 15 minutes. This is a far cry from where testing turnaround results often stretched for five or more days. The testing is only for symptomatic patients who are being evaluated by their Mercy provider.

Established Mercy patients who have had a positive exposure and/or are asymptomatic can contact their primary care provider’s office about testing.

Mercy.net, including the hold-my-place functionality for its walk-in locations, is an excellent place to start, Mercy officials said.

At Mercy Hospital Carthage, located at 3125 Dr. Russell Smith Way, patients seeking COVID-19 testing can drive into the parking lot following the COVID-19 testing signage, which directs them to the emergency department area of the hospital. The patient then dials 417-359-1981 to alert the phone operator that he is there for COVID-19 testing. He will then be asked to pull up under the portico located on the north side of the hospital, where a Mercy employee will come out to the vehicle and collect a sample. Test turnaround times can be anywhere from six to 48 hours, depending on the day of the week and hour of the day in which the specimen is collected, according to Mercy officials.

Freeman Health System

According to Jessica Liberty, Freeman’s manager of infection prevention and control, urges all people seeking testing to first call the hospital’s COVID-19 hotline should “they suspect they need a COVID-19 test.” That number is 417-347-6444.

Freeman testing locations include:

• Drive-thru testing, in which appointments can be made based on results from calling the COVID-19 hotline number or a doctor’s referral. These tests are strictly appointment-based only. The testing address is 1221 McIntosh Circle.

• Freeman Urgent Care locations at 1130 E. 32nd Street in Joplin and 1636 S. Madison in Webb City offers testing. Dial 417-347-2273 for both locations. Freeman West’s Emergency Room also offers testing. In both cases, testing is conducted at the discretion of the physician and may require a wait. In fact, it is not recommended to just show up looking for a test, Liberty said, as that puts staff and other patients at risk if an individual is indeed positive for the coronavirus.

Turnaround times for test results, according to Liberty, are typically 48 hours or less but in some circumstances may take up to three days.

As far as costs, self-pay cost is $108 for the test plus visit fee, while the drive-thru charges for the test only; urgent care and emergency department charges for both the test and visit fee. Also, the patient should contact his insurance provider to determine if COVID-19 tests are covered.

COVID-19 testing for employers and their employees is also conducted at Freeman’s OccuMed, 3201 McClelland Blvd., according to Kathryn Charlton, director of OccuMed operations. That number is 417-347-6625.

OccuMed offers drive-thru active infection (PCR) testing from the safety and comfort of the patient's vehicle, though employer authorization and appointments are required. Convenient testing also can be conducted at an employer’s building or office.

All PCR testing through OccuMed must be billed to the employer authorizing the test. OccuMed does not offer insurance billing for any COVID-19 testing services, Charlton said.

There is also COVID-19 drive-thru testing being done from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Monday and Wednesday of this week at Walmart, 2623 W. Seventh St., in Joplin. Details concerning future testing dates can be found by dialing 800-635-8611.

Other locations

Other testing locations include:

• According to Walmart.com, as of Sept. 15, more than 250,000 people have been tested at Walmart supported sites. There is no out-of-pocket cost for those being tested; testing is being conducted on-site by ETruthNorth. Nasal swab tests that allow those being tested to swab their own nose on-site while in their vehicles are collected by a trained pharmacist to ensure the sample is taken correctly, then dropped into a sealed sample container. Test results come back in three to five days.

• Access Family Care provides COVID-19 testing — its Southwest Missouri locations are located in Joplin, Carthage, Neosho, Lamar, Anderson, Cassville and Aurora, with testing turnaround time about 15 minutes. Call 417-451-9450 for details, testing days and hours.

• COVID-19 testing in Southeast Kansas includes Ascension Via Christi Hospital; the SEK Urgent Care, 200 E. Centennial Drive; and the Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas, 3011 N. Michigan Ave.

• Rapid Remedy Urgent Care Center, 700 S. Main, in Grove, Oklahoma, has tests results can be turned around as quickly as 15 minutes, though there might be an hour or longer wait.

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