Governor Parson says testing is key to preventing new outbreaks

Posted at 4:41 PM, May 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-18 19:41:29-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — There's an ongoing push to increase COVID-19 testing in Missouri.

Ken Hutcherson had tried to get a test for weeks.

He currently lives at an independent senior-living facility called Garden Village in the Northland.

About a year and a half ago, the 77-year-old Hutcherson was in a bad car accident.

He still uses a walker to get around.

A few weeks ago, Hutcherson said he received a notice with his meal. It said a Garden Village resident had tested positive for coronavirus.

Concerned, he reached out to Garden Village management and then spoke to a woman with the Kansas City Health Department to see if he could get tested.

"I said, 'Do you have any intention of testing any of us besides that one person?'" Hutcherson recalled saying. "She said that they did not have the resources and so apparently the answer is no."

A spokesperson for Holiday Retirement, which operates Garden Village, provided a statement Monday afternoon defending its handling of the positive coronavirus case.

"The community has been in constant communication with the health department, ensuring that the protocols we have in place are sufficient and in some cases, more than sufficient," Holiday Retirement Communications Manager Alyssa Cerrito said via email to 41 Action News.

Cerrito noted that only one of 152 residents at the facility has tested positive, but she didn't answer a question about who at the facility — staff or residents — has been tested.

Still, Missouri Governor Mike Parson said last Wednesday testing will be key to preventing future outbreaks.

He said between state and private labs, up to 60,000 tests could be done in Missouri each week if needed.

Parson appeared with an executive from Quest Diagnostics.

That company has 1,200 Missouri employees and operates four labs and 34 patient care centers in the state.

As of Monday, the company reported performing 1.7 million COVID-19 diagnostic tests and 620,000 antibody tests across the country since the national outbreak.

"We are good on supplies and our business is continually every day picking up on testing," Marcia Waters, a nurse at Truman Medical Center said.

In mid-March, Waters was re-assigned from her job as a cardiac rehab nurse to the coronavirus drive through testing facility at Truman Medical Center near downtown Kansas City.

She said the people getting tested there are either getting checked in advance of medical procedures at the re-opened hospital or go through a screening process by calling to schedule an appointment at 816-404-2273.

Truman is also doing testing at remote sites throughout Jackson County three days-a-week to reach people in their communities.

It includes Friday's visit to Blue Springs.

Truman will give free tests to people without insurance.

Results are typically reported in a day or two after being processed at Truman's own lab.

"They're very thankful. Some of them are scared. They just want to make sure the symptoms they're feeling aren't COVID," Andrea Acuss, a Truman nurse who worked at the mobile site in Blue Springs said on Friday.

But Waters believes significant antibody testing of asymptomatic people will need to be done to have a better idea of the virus spread.

"I am pretty sure there is a lot of positives that we are not aware of," she said.

As for Ken Hutcherson, he and a Garden Village married couple decided on their own to go to an urgent care facility Wednesday and get tested.

"I keep hearing that there are people who have it and don't have any symptoms and therefore could be contagious without even knowing," he said.

On Thursday, a day after his test, Hutcherson was told he was negative for COVID-19.

The 41 Action News I-Team reached out to Garden Village Director Vicki Jones for comment.

She referred the Investigators to a phone message line for the facility's corporate owner Holiday Retirement.

A phone message indicated someone with the company would respond to the I-Team questions within a day.

We'll update this story if they provide a response.