AAfter recording spikes in January with omicron, COVID-19 testing sites across the region are reporting both declining positivity rates and demand for services this week, mirroring national trends of declining cases.
Last week, COVID-19 cases in the United States were down 53.1% from their Jan. 15 peak, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Joplin Health Department reported 62 new cases on Monday compared to 113 cases on January 31.
Missourians rushed to receive COVID-19 testing services last month, sites ran out of tests in just hours, and cars were lined up for blocks. Additional testing sites have opened since the January push. This includes a new location in Cherokee County, Kansas.
Ivy Medical announced on Tuesday that it has opened a free walk-in/drive-thru testing site at 217 W. Seventh St. in Galena, Kansas, in response to the omicron variant. The site offers rapid antigen and PCR tests from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. No appointment or health insurance is required.
“We know how difficult it has been for families, students and workers to get a COVID-19 test, let alone a free test,” Ivy Medical CEO Tristan Steele said in a statement. .
Rapid antigen test results are available within two hours and PCR test results usually take 24-72 hours. Due to federal regulations, Ivy Medical cannot discuss test results over the phone and patients will receive their results electronically.
The group also operates a COVID-19 testing site at 115 N. Madison St. in Webb City. Sami Johnson, human resources director for Ivy Medical, said the group was in talks with other cities across the country about opening new sites.
“Besides being vaccinated and reinforced, the test is the best tool we have in the fight against COVID-19,” she said. “Vaccines are very effective in preventing serious illness and death, but the omicron variant is extremely contagious.”
Demand for testing at the Webb City site remained high in January. He averaged about 200 tests a day. Johnson said testing requests have declined this month, likely due to winter weather.
The Webb City site had closed Wednesday through Friday last week due to unsafe travel conditions. Johnson also said positivity rates at Ivy Medical sites continue to decline, with some sites showing a 20% positivity rate. However, officials believe testing could resume as temperatures hit the 50s and 60s this week.
Seeds of hope
Carthage-based endowment agency Seeds of Hope has opened five testing sites in Jasper, Newton and McDonald counties and is working to open a sixth site at a community center in Granby next week.
The agency offers free PCR tests that can detect the presence of the virus that causes COVID-19. No pre-registration or appointment is necessary. Seeds of Hope testing sites are located in Joplin, Webb City, Carthage, Neosho and Pineville.
Julie Hawkins, owner of Seeds of Hope, said the agency administered nearly 7,000 tests in total across its five locations in January. There are on average between 80 and 150 people per day on the Joplin site.
“Due to the weather we have slowed down, but the need for testing is still strong,” Hawkins said. “We had to close for a few days because of the weather, but when we opened people were coming right back to get tested.”
Of the thousands of people who have been tested with Seeds of Hope, 30% to 40% have tested positive for COVID-19, according to Hawkins. Test results are emailed to the customer within 24-48 hours.
“We just want to be available to the community to help them get tested, and that prevents them from going to the hospital for testing where they could potentially infect other people,” Hawkins said. “They can just get in the drive-thru, and we come to them. We expect to see an increase in people once the weather warms up, but that’s day to day.
Next Generation Diagnostic Services
NextGen Diagnostic Services, a certified mobile laboratory that provides molecular and antigen testing, provided COVID-19 testing services in Joplin and throughout Missouri.
The antigen test can produce results in about 15 minutes. NextGen also provides antibody testing, which identifies immune system antibodies that are produced as a result of the coronavirus.
The group was offered a renewable contract by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services in April 2021 to perform mobile COVID-19 testing across the state.
The Joplin-based mobile lab was created by lab owner and director Nanda Nunnelly, who established the service during the wave of delta variants in November 2020. Nunnelly said the lab is also seeing fewer requests for COVID-19 testing. 19, which she considers a good. sign.
NextGen Diagnostics offered free COVID-19 testing in Springfield about two weeks ago, where it administered tests to nearly 400 people a day. This number fell to 200 people per day the following week. It was the same case in St. Louis, Nunelly said.
“A few weeks ago we were in St. Louis testing about 500 people a day,” she said. “Now we see around 100 people a day.”
Nunnelly said the need for COVID-19 testing has only increased more and more with each variant that emerges. She agrees with Springfield healthcare leaders who believe the region has reached its omicron peak.
Officials from the Freeman Health System and Mercy Hospital Joplin said they have also seen fewer people seek a COVID-19 test in the past two weeks.
Jessica Liberty, head of infection prevention and control at Freeman, said Tuesday that Freeman has seen at least a 70% reduction in COVID-19 testing compared to January.
“Testing has definitely decreased over the past 10 days with weather being one of the contributing factors, but even during this week our testing has remained reduced,” she said. “We closed our test site last Thursday, the third, which obviously reduced our workforce. We saw a reduction Wednesday and Friday, but not as much as I thought. Our testing has stabilized this week at around 30 patients per day. We were testing 100 a day during the peak week last month. »
Mercy Hospital Joplin, which offers COVID-19 testing only to referred individuals, also reported a significant drop in the number of test requests at its clinics compared to last month. Jordan Larimore, spokesperson for Mercy Hospital Joplin, said clinics were testing about 20 people a day in mid-January, which rose to one to five people a day early last week.