State senators and House representatives met in a joint committee to discuss Missouri’s preparedness for the probable spread of coronavirus on Tuesday.
Randall Williams, the director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said the state is well-prepared and has plenty of resources in the case of an outbreak. The state has the ability to test up to 1,000 patients and has only used about 40. Only one test has been classified as a “presumptive positive,” in St. Louis County.
Missouri has $9.9 million in funding from the federal government to help with its efforts.
Missouri is now testing more people for the coronavirus due to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expanding the criteria for tests. In addition to people who have traveled to flagged areas and people been in contact with those travelers, tests will also be administered to people above the age of 65 with symptoms.
“One reason we think possibly older people are showing so much more mortality, morbidity, is that your body is reacting as an autoimmune, your body is attacking something in your lungs that the COVID-19 is eliciting,” Williams said. “And that would be one explanation why children do better than 70-year-olds.”
The symptoms include a fever of 100.4 or above and a dry, hacking cough. Unlike the flu, those infected with coronavirus are unlikely to experience body aches or any other flu-like symptoms.
The state has enough hospital spaces for 3,000 patients, according to the Missouri Hospital Association. As of right now, Williams says 81 percent of people infected with coronavirus will only have mild symptoms, 14 percent will require hospitalization, four percent will need intensive care and two percent will not survive.
Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring, says the state is more than ready to step in economically. Each test costs $120 and the state currently has $9.9 million in funding, but Eigel says it’s important to be ready for a more extreme case as well.
“I’ve already had discussions with my colleagues. If there’s a need for additional revenues to expand that capacity to deal with an even more widespread epidemic, then I certainly that is going to take shape very quickly,” Eigel said.
Williams and state legislators are suggesting all residents have situational awareness, wash hands and avoid people who appear to be exhibiting symptoms. Williams said, however, the 81 percent who will have mild symptoms are unlikely to spread COVID-19 as aggressively as those who are symptomatic.
All state cases of coronavirus are reported to Williams, who then notifies both the local officials and the patient. It is up to local levels to decide on cancellation policies. This includes schools and other businesses and organizations.