Gov. Mike Parson said Wednesday it will be critical for the state to deploy testing resources to fight COVID-19, and a representative of Quest Diagnostics said the company plans to continue to increase its testing capacity.
Quest Diagnostics is not the only company supplying testing for COVID-19, but it's one of the principal ones.
In Missouri, the company's 1,200 employees operate four laboratories, 34 patient service centers and phlebotomy services in 95 doctors' offices, according to a news release from Parson's office.
Jim Dumbauld, senior director for Quest Diagnostics, said the company has conducted 1.5 million diagnostic tests nationally since March 9 and currently has a capacity of 50,000 tests per day.
Dumbauld could not immediately say how many of those tests would be specifically for Missouri.
"We're ramping that up as fast as we possibly can," Dumbauld said of the company's capacity. He added the company would like to be able to do approximately 100,000 tests per day within the coming weeks.
The state's plan with testing going forward involves a few different strategies, including rapidly deploying it to work to contain outbreaks — especially at places such as meat processing plants, nursing homes and prisons — and to randomly test within communities to determine the prevalence of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Dr. Randall Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said Wednesday that everyone at a facility will be tested for the disease if only one patient or staff member gets sick.
He said Missouri can currently do 8,880 tests a day, seven days a week — which comes out to approximately 61,600 tests a week.
Missouri's testing capacity involves its State Public Health Laboratory, as well as at least 15 private national and in-state laboratories, and participating health care institutions, according to the news release from Parson's office.
The state recently updated its testing criteria for the State Public Health Laboratory to focus on people with close contact with suspected or confirmed patients with COVID-19, symptomatic health care workers and first responders, symptomatic residents of congregate living facilities with residents at a higher risk for poor health outcomes, symptomatic hospital patients, and symptomatic patients at a high risk for negative health outcomes.
Patients not meeting DHSS criteria for testing can be tested by private laboratories, which do not require DHSS approval.
Williams added members of the general public might be able to get antibody tests for COVID-19 by June or July.
Such tests would be intended to help determine who has already been infected with COVID-19 — perhaps without knowing it — and therefore might have immunity to the disease.