KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Missouri has ordered an additional 220 ventilators in anticipation that the COVID-19 outbreak will worsen, especially in the St. Louis area.
“Our message is always to hope for the best, prepare for the worst …,” Missouri department of Health and Senior Services Director Dr. Randall Williams said Friday during the governor’s daily COVID-19 briefing. “We feel that we are prepared for just that.”
Williams said the state, including private labs, are processing 1,000 to 1,500 COVID-19 tests per day.
Early projections anticipated a 6 to 8% rate of positive tests, but Williams said Health and Senior Services has revised that figure up to 10%.
So far, the state has performed roughly 7,000 tests, including assistance from “eight to nine private labs with more coming on board,” Williams said.
“We’d like to have more testing, but we’re also seeing what we need to know,” Williams said.
Unlike Italy, where the COVID-19 outbreak originated in rural populations, the U.S. — and Missouri, in particular — has seen community transmission primarily in urban centers.
That increases the difficulty in containing the pandemic’s spread.
“At the end of the day, the tests serve two purposes,” Williams said, allowing for isolation of those with a confirmed infection and to remind people of the infection’s growing prevalence in Missouri communities.
“Social distancing is more incredibly important than ever,” Williams said.
He expects the state to continue having roughly 120 additional positive COVID-19 cases per day with the current testing structure, a number that could go up if testing capacity also increases.
The largest cluster remains around St. Louis, both the city and county.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson remains resistant to a statewide stay-at-home order, but he said Friday that he won’t overrule decisions made by local cities and counties.
“We have order in place, they have theirs,” Parson said. “I think the most important message to make sure people understand how important it is to abide by these orders.”
Medical professionals continue to stress that limiting social contact is the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19, a highly contagious respiratory virus.
Despite refusing to issue a statewide order, Parson said he will continue to encourage Missouri residents to voluntarily stay at home whenever possible.
“Every day, I come in here and talk to Missouri people and tell them to stay at home,” he said. “We’re following the guidelines of the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
Parson acknowledged that preventing social contact is “the answer to how we slow COVID-19 down.”
He also urged Missourians to consider “how this affects others, not just yourself. We all need to be thinking about our families, our friends and loved ones.