Missouri schools to receive COVID-19 rapid testing kits

Freeman hospital waiting on additional rapid tests.
Missouri Schools To Receive Thousands Of Covid 19 Testing Kits

JOPLIN, Mo. – Employees at Joplin schools unpack dozens of COVID-19 rapid tests today, the first ones that have been sent directly to the district since the pandemic began.

“This could help us possibly as a tool to stay in school,” says Joplin Superintendent Dr. Melinda Moss.

The school district will be receiving more than seven thousand rapid testing kits, enough to test every student, faculty member, and staff in the district.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is sending 1.8 million tests to the state, with 60-percent of them going to K-12 schools, 30-percent going to colleges and universities, and 10-percent going to other uses. According to the department, the tests provide results in 15 minutes. They are being distributed by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Moss explains that they will be using the tests, at least at first, to test faculty and staff who are showing symptoms.

“The crisis is not so much students testing positive, it’s staffing rates when we have staff either testing positive or in quarantine,” says Moss. “Now we’re able to bring that teacher in, do the 15-minute antigen test with our own trained school nurses, and then find out if it’s positive or negative in order to be able to keep them in the classroom if it’s simply the common cold or some other illness. These tests do not take the place of any of our safety protocols that are in place now. We’re still watching our mask requirement, we’re still cohorting our student groups. This just gives us another tool in our tool belt.”

Webb City and Carthage will also be receiving testing kits.

But schools aren’t the only ones looking to get the rapid testing kits. Freeman Health System has been working to receive rapid testing as well.

“Being able to have and utilize those rapid tests we’re able to place them into the appropriate units to get the care that they need. It also helps mitigate any potential spread,” says Jessica Liberty, Infection Prevention Manager at Freeman Health System.

Around two weeks ago, Freeman Health System received their first allotment of rapid tests. But, they didn’t receive as many as they had originally requested, and the ones they did get were divided between the hospitals in Joplin and Neosho. Liberty couldn’t say how many they had received.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has the final say in how many hospitals are allotted.

In contrast, Steve Douglas with Access Family Care says they’ve been doing rapid testing since June, and continue to receive as many as they need. But they purchase those tests directly from the manufacturer, so the state isn’t involved.

“I know some of the things that they utilize, or supplies that they use for the rapid COVID tests, they’re in short supply. And larger metropolitan areas, they receive a higher allocation. They have higher priority,” says Liberty.

Liberty explains that they will be getting more rapid tests in November and December.

“We have requested certain amounts of rapid tests. Whether or not we get those allotted to us, we do not know at this time,” says Liberty. “We do know that there are certain numbers that we have been promised for the next couple of months, but in the end, we don’t really know until we actually receive those shipments.”