New “boxed in testing” strategy affecting rural Missouri as COVID-19 cases increase

CASSVILLE, Mo. – The state of Missouri has a new strategy called “boxed in testing” that is designed to provide more resources to critical areas throughout the state.

The term refers to attacking specific areas in Missouri that have seen higher jumps in cases than other areas in the state. Several of those critical areas have been rural communities.

McDonald, Barry, Newton and Jasper counties have seen an increase in cases and are now expected to be part of this new strategy.

Missouri Health and Senior Services Director Randall Williams told KY3 that the strategy has several benefits.

“I think it is twofold. One prevents more people from becoming infected,” he said. “And we also believe that it prevents mortality.”

Williams said the strategy will allow the state to increase testing to a much higher level than previously in April and May.

“It allows a robust ability to go in and do a lot of testing,” he said. “And now we can do 12,000 tests a day in Missouri, if not more.”

A spokesman for the Barry County Health Department said he believes the strategy will be very helpful.

“It gives you an opportunity to locate possible exposures and things and try to limit movement as best as possible,” said spokesman Roger Brock.

The objective is to target and isolate those cases.

“Try to narrow that circle and make it smaller versus a larger circle of potential contacts,” said Brock. “The main goal is to try to find those cases as quickly as possible and try to limit the chance of the virus spreading.”

Williams said the targeting strategy includes more resources like more test kits, patient medications and help from the Missouri National Guard.

Steve Douglas with Access Family Care in Newton County said the help of the state’s new strategy will make testing sites much more efficient.

“For us, the volume will be good,” he said. “Because the sites can screen about 600 people a day. And they have trained professionals with the National Guard to do that. So I think only volume and professionalism will be a good option for people.”

Douglas also said he believes it will help ease people’s fears.

“I think it helps calm people who, if they have a concern, know that the health departments and the state are taking action,” he said.

Health leaders said people in these “hotspot” counties likely travel through neighboring counties to work. When traveling, there are risks of spreading the virus. They said they believe this will be the best way for counties to stay vigilant and follow up on cases as people continue to do so.