Missouri health officials meet at White House to prepare for possible spread of coronavirus

Coronavirus Concerns

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is engaging with federal governmental leadership, national thought leaders and local public health agencies to maximize Missouri’s preparedness for the possible spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus should a future case be diagnosed in Missouri.

“In joining my fellow state health officers from around the nation this week at the White House to discuss preparations across our country with the acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and the Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, I am pleased that our efforts here in Missouri are strategically aligned with our federal and national partners,” said Dr. Randall Williams, DHSS Director. “Prior to the national health emergency being declared on January 31, our incident management team from DHSS had already begun daily meetings (on Jan. 27) as part of our normal preparedness and response duties. Part of our responsibilities also includes being an effective liaison to local public health departments who were briefed last week in Jefferson City with the latest information from federal partners.”

State health officials have fielded numerous calls and worked to review information relating to possible causes. To date, more than 60 individuals have been evaluated due to their travel or exposure history or symptoms. A much smaller number of individuals within Missouri have met the CDC’s criteria for persons under investigation (PUI), meaning they have both an exposure history and are symptomatic under CDC guidelines, which are reviewed with CDC to determine testing. Of PUIs in Missouri, none have tested positive for COVID-19 and no tests are currently pending. 

Today, the Missouri State Public Health Laboratory was approved by the CDC to begin providing testing. The test uses real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR) to detect the virus which causes COVID-19, and it can provide same-day results from when a specimen is received at the laboratory.

“Our Missouri team has been working to educate and collaborate with a robust network of response organizations including the State Emergency Management Agency, all 16 State departments, the Missouri State Public Health Laboratory, clinicians, local public health departments, medical associations, hospital associations, airports, school nurses, student health departments at colleges, and others to provide timely and accurate information in preparation for the possibility of a future positive case,” Dr. Williams indicated. “We are dedicated to continuing to educate Missourians about COVID-19. The risk for infection still remains low, and we will continue to strategically align with all of our partners under our operating principle of hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.”

In the midst of a moderately severe flu season, the public health message of DHSS continues to be the importance of using good health practices such as effective handwashing and communicating well with your physicians.

DHSS has established a website at www.health.mo.gov/coronavirus to provide information and links to resources and education material on COVID-19.