Editor's note: This story has been updated with corrected testing information from the Howell County Health Department.
Howell County Health Department Director Chris Gilliam says his department is working with Ozarks Medical Center and local providers to provide COVID-19 testing for symptomatic and sick individuals, which has been limited locally due to criteria listed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The limitation on testing is also due to a lack of test kits available, as well as the limited number of laboratories capable to conduct the testing, said Gilliam, adding that each of the issues is being addressed by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
To date, 24 tests have been submitted to laboratories for testing, said Gilliam. Of those, six have come back negative, while 18 results are pending.
“There are community task force meetings underway to determine how to best contain further spread through mitigation efforts,” he added, offering praise for “all those involved for their commitment to the health and safety of the community.”
Gilliam said Burton Creek Medical Clinic is offering testing for their patient population who meet the current testing criteria. That clinic’s testing is also extended to patients whose primary care provider is not currently testing, if upon a medical evaluation, testing is deemed warranted by their regular physician.
People who fall into one of these categories need to phone the clinic in advance of their arrival, Gilliam cautioned, adding that the clinic has established a process in which providers can test people from their vehicles.
In addition, Southern Missouri Community Health Center has modified its operations in response to the pandemic and are also providing testing for their patients. As with the other clinic, symptomatic people are encouraged to call in advance to showing up at the clinic.
Older adults and people who have underlying chronic medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes seem to be higher at risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness, Gilliam noted. People at higher risk for serious illness should contact their healthcare provider, even if their illness is mild.
Those who are are very sick are urged to get medical attention immediately, particularly if they develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19: Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse, bluish lips or face
Testing criteria under the current Interim Missouri COVID-19 Person Under Investigation definition include:
- Fever or signs/symptoms of lower respiratory illness (e.g. cough or shortness of breath) AND any person, including healthcare workers, with close contact with a laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 patient within 14 days of symptom onset.
- Fever and signs/symptoms of a lower respiratory illness (e.g., cough or shortness of breath) requiring hospitalization AND a history of travel from affected geographic areas within 14 days of symptom onset.
- Fever with severe acute lower respiratory illness (e.g., pneumonia, ARDS) requiring hospitalization and without alternative explanatory diagnosis (e.g., influenza) AND No source of exposure has been identified.
- Fever and signs/symptoms of a lower respiratory illness (e.g., cough or shortness of breath) without alternative explanatory diagnosis (e.g., influenza), not hospitalized or considered severe AND A history of travel from affected geographic areas within 14 days of symptom onset.
Areas with sustained (ongoing) transmission include: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Monaco, San Marino, Vatican City, Western Pacific Japan, South Korea, China, Eastern Mediterranean Iran, King County/Seattle, Washington, USA, Westchester County, New York, USA, and Santa Clara County, California, USA.
Anyone who thinks they have been exposed to COVID-19 and develops a fever and symptoms, such as cough or difficulty breathing, should call their healthcare provider for medical advice.
Updated at 11:10 a.m., March 21, 2020: A previous version of this story included a quote from Gilliam stating that 17 tests had been submitted from Howell County and all had tested negative for COVID-19. The Quill received the following correction by email at about 10 a.m. Saturday morning from the Howell County Health Department.
"The Howell County Health Department seeks to make a statement of correction in regards to its recent reporting that all 17 of the Howell County COVID-19 tests submitted to laboratories for testing had come back negative. The statement should have read, of the 24 tests having been submitted to laboratories for testing, 6 have come back negative while 18 results are pending. We sincerely apologize for any confusion this may have caused."