Parson: New, more COVID-19 tests coming to state

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson speaks during a briefing July 27, 2020.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson speaks during a briefing July 27, 2020.

Delivering a briefing from isolation in the Governor's Mansion in Jefferson City, Gov. Mike Parson said Wednesday that new COVID-19 testing technologies and more tests for Missourians are in the process of being distributed.

Parson has been isolating at the mansion since last week after he and his wife, first lady Teresa Parson, tested positive for coronavirus.

Gov. Parson said Wednesday, "I'm feeling good and still have no symptoms," and Teresa no longer has symptoms.

Her mild symptoms last week were what prompted her to get a test, which in turn led to the governor getting tested.

More tests for COVID-19 are coming to the state, Gov. Parson said.

In late August and in weeks since, he and leaders of his administration touted a new saliva-based test developed by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis and Fluidigm, a San Francisco-based biotechnology company.

The test uses a small amount of saliva collected through a funnel into a vial - instead of the familiar and sometimes uncomfortable nasal swab test - and promises quicker results.

Gov. Parson said the test will help further expand laboratory capacities and testing volumes.

In addition to the machine for the saliva tests at Washington University, he said the state purchased four more that will be distributed regionally - one each for the southwest, southeast and central regions, and Kansas City.

"This is a very technical piece of equipment that will require proper infrastructure and trained personnel in order to operate," Parson said - so conversations are being had to start the process of deploying the technology as quickly as possible.

A Fluidigm spokesperson has previously said - if properly certified - private, county health and academic labs can all perform the tests and collect results.

Gov. Parson said of 150 million other rapid tests to be distributed to states by the federal government, Missouri expects to receive 120,000 by the end of this week and nearly 2 million by the end of the year.

He also said the state was awarded $3.2 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to plan and implement distribution of an eventual vaccine for COVID-19.

The state is ahead of others in planning, and Missouri is providing a model others are looking to, Gov. Parson said.

"Although there are still many unknowns about a vaccine, we remain optimistic and are prepared to take action as soon as there is a vaccine available," he said.

Given his isolation, he gave Wednesday's briefing through Facebook and no ASL interpreter was on hand, but an ASL interpretation of the briefing is available on the Missouri Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing's page,

Gov. Parson said he and Teresa would remain in isolation for the rest of the week, but both plan to return to a normal schedule Monday.

The governor thanked people for their thoughts and prayers - including a child from Linn for her get-well card - and also thanked health care workers, county health workers and other frontline responders during the pandemic.

Asked by reporters via submitted questions what he had learned about COVID-19 while infected with it, Gov. Parson said: "You always think that's going to happen to somebody else, and all of sudden it happens to you."

He said he and his wife are thankful to be among those who can stand and talk about their experiences, in addition to others who have recovered from the disease, while other people have faced more severe health consequences.

"But the idea of it is you have to deal with it, and you have to keep moving forward. You have to do everything you can to protect other people, and we're going to continue to do that," Parson said.

"What you learn from it is you take the right actions of what you're supposed to do, and you commit to that, and that's what we're doing, and we look forward to being back into the workforce in the very near future," he added.

On special legislative sessions, he said he was unsure of the timing of possible sessions to address liability protections against COVID-19 - such as for businesses - and a supplemental budget.

He said a supplemental budget special session - more likely to be before a session on liability protection, which the governor noted he supports - might be held at some point between now and November, but discussions with lawmakers continue.