JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri’s state health director on Wednesday said the state has enough tests for the new coronavirus and that there is no evidence the disease has spread in Missouri.
Right now, the state can do 780 tests for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and it’s waiting on a shipment of more tests from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which Department of Health and Senior Services Director Randall Williams said he expects by the end of the week.
The CDC is sending out 1 million tests across the country this week. Williams did not know the exact number Missouri would be receiving, he said.
The state lab can process 100 tests a day and is currently performing about 10 tests a day, Williams said. They’ve done about 60 tests in total, with one positive case: a college student who returned to St. Louis County from a study abroad trip to Italy on March 3, he said.
“The bottom line is, we have the capacity to test the people who fit our screening criteria,” Williams said.
Missouri expanded the criteria for testing on Tuesday, and commercial tests are now available to patients with a doctor’s recommendation, Williams said.
In most cases, a patient has to show both symptoms and the risk of exposure to fit the state’s testing criteria. The physical symptoms are fever and respiratory issues ranging from cough to shortness of breath to pneumonia. The exposure risks are travel to an affected area within 14 days of showing symptoms or coming into contact with someone who has been in contact with a confirmed COVID-19 patient.
Also fitting the testing criteria are severe respiratory issues that require hospitalization but have no other explanation.
“If someone comes in with pneumonia and there’s no other diagnosis for why they would have pneumonia, then we would do the test,” Williams said.
A patient only needs a doctor’s recommendation for a commercial test, currently offered by LabCorp in Missouri and offered nationally by Quest Diagnostics. Those tests cost $123 and can take two to three days to process, Williams said.
The state lab takes about six hours to actually run a test, Williams said. It runs tests in batches if it has enough, but it won’t wait for more specimens just so it can run a batch instead of a single test, he said.
“Now that tests are available commercially in Missouri, we wanted to save our tests for those who are most in need, most acute or most ill,” Williams said.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said testing done at the state lab will not cost patients anything. The state has federal funds to cover the cost.
“By our criteria, we clearly think we have enough tests to test people we’re worried about,” Williams said.
Because most people experience mild symptoms, it’s possible someone has the virus and hasn’t risen to the attention of a health care provider, but there’s no evidence there has been any community spread in Missouri, Williams said.
Williams said anyone with questions about the virus can call the state’s 24-hour hotline at 877-435-8411. The phone number became active Wednesday morning. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services also has a webpage with more information about the disease. The department's website is hhttps://health.mo.gov/index.php.
Editor's note: This report has been updated to correct information about pricing.