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SFCHC urges residents to take advantage of free COVID-19 testing
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SFCHC urges residents to take advantage of free COVID-19 testing

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Health Center prepares for coronavirus

The free COVID-19 testing on Tuesday at Mineral Area College is a great opportunity for the community, according to St. Francois County Health Center Director Amber Elliott.

Elliott expects the event to be fully booked. She was told there are 384 slots and 234 have already been booked as of Friday.

“So it is a great opportunity if you're interested in knowing if you have an infection, even if you don't have symptoms, and it's free,” Elliott explained. “So we do encourage the public to take advantage of this. We know we've been asked many times about testing in the past.”

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and the Missouri National Guard are conducting the drive-through testing event for Missouri residents at MAC’s Student Lot F on Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Register at health.mo.gov/communitytest or by calling the state hotline at 877-435-8411.

No doctor’s ordered is needed for test and it is free, so no insurance card is needed either. But registration is required for the test, a PCR test done by a nasopharyngeal swab to determine if there is an active infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Elliott said this is probably a one-time event unless the county starts to see another spike in cases. The state offered the free testing opportunity after the recent spike in cases at the two Department of Corrections facilities.

“Even though they know that those are DOC related, it's still an important thing to be aware of and gives us an idea of what community transmission looks like if we can provide a clinic here,” Elliott said.

The health center reported six new cases on Friday. The county now has 174 total cases and 12 active cases. Three of those active cases are DOC-related and 108 total cases are DOC-related.

The health center is hoping to provide testing for the virus in the future, Elliott said, once they can hire the appropriate personnel.

“So we're hoping to continue to expand availability of testing,” she added.

Elliott said it probably be a couple more weeks before the county could see cases from the Fourth of July holiday. But right now, another shutdown is not being considered for the county, she said, and they are hoping to avoid that.

“I think it's a concern if our healthcare system becomes overwhelmed,” Elliott said. “We're not at that point at this time, but we do need to take into consideration that St. Louis is not far from us. A lot of our residents utilize health care in St. Louis. And so it's something we have to think about locally and regionally as an important intervention …

"So the best thing that people can do is to help us mitigate cases and mitigate severe illness and that really is, again, these recommendations that we've provided,” Elliott said.

With Friday’s announcement from the Farmington School District about a case in the athletics department, Elliot said it’s important to remember that we can’t take the risk down to zero with schools.

“I think it's something that we need to go into it knowing that there will be cases in the schools at some point,” Elliott said. “There could be closures at some point for cleaning and all of these things are going into their plans. And again, those will be ever evolving plans as we continue our response to COVID-19 in coordination with the schools.”

Elliott said it’s also important to remember what being a close contact to a positive case means.

“If people are exposed to a confirmed case, you have to be in close contact,” Elliott explained. “You have to be within six feet of a confirmed case for at least 15 minutes. So it's a pretty substantial amount of time. We've talked about before that it can't be like passing somebody in Walmart. You have to be in pretty close proximity to them to be a contact and that means that they would need to quarantine for 14 days.”

"We’ve all been on a roller coaster since March," Elliott said.

“It looks a little bit different right now than what it did a year ago at this time,” Elliott said. “And so we're thankful that the public is hung in there with us. And we just ask that people continue practice these mitigation efforts to keep us out of a severe situation where we're looking at overwhelming the healthcare system. We're seeing that in other parts of the country right now, and we don't want to see that.”

The Washington County Health Department reported four new cases on Friday. The county has 37 total cases and nine active cases.

The Ste. Genevieve Health Department reported one new case, bringing total to 25 cases. The county has four active and four probable cases.

Nikki Overfelt is a reporter for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at noverfelt@dailyjournalonline.com.

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