Auditor Galloway calls for comprehensive, universal testing in high-risk environments as part of Governor Parson’s phased reopening

April 30, 2020

Columbia, Mo. — Auditor Nicole Galloway is calling on Governor Parson to implement a comprehensive strategy of universal testing to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks in high-risk, congregated environments, such as food processing, manufacturing, and long-term care or nursing facilities. Galloway argues for a preventative approach to testing before outbreaks occur and greater transparency for Missouri workers and families.

“Governor Parson insists the state now has the capability to achieve 50,000 tests per week, but so far this week only approximately 12,000 tests have been completed. Rather than just deploying testing in response to outbreaks, the administration should provide testing on an on-going basis in order to prevent them,” said Galloway. “Preventing an outbreak in a congregated environment, such as a food processing facility, a nursing home, or a large manufacturer will require comprehensive rapid testing and robust contact tracing. Missourians also need to be able to see what, where, and when testing is being done in real-time.”

Governor Parson says the state now has the ability to do 50,000 tests per week. Therefore, Galloway is calling for the following strategies to be adopted by the administration:

Comprehensive rolling testing. Every licensed nursing facility, food processor, and large manufacturer in Missouri should receive comprehensive testing as regularly as is medically necessary to determine if an infection has occurred. In order to mitigate the spread of the virus in these facilities, testing must be universal and occur regularly with results available rapidly. Because of the vulnerability of these populations, the state should not wait for outbreaks to occur, but rather develop a systematic and regular approach to ongoing testing at every facility.

For instance, every nursing home should receive universal testing of every resident and staff member. Any resident who receives medical care with a provider outside the facility in which they reside should be tested prior to returning to the facility in order to prevent new infections from entering. Staff who work at multiple facilities should receive heightened screening and priority testing regularly. 

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan this week implemented universal testing of every nursing home resident and staff member in that state in order to prevent outbreaks and mitigate infections.

“Each of Missouri’s 80,000 long term care facility beds represents a loved family member. We owe it to these vulnerable Missourians, and those skilled professionals who care for them, to ensure their safety for as long as this virus lasts,” said Galloway. 

Transparency. The Governor’s administration says they will begin providing data publicly on nursing facilities where two or more residents test positive. However, the state should also report data on the number of tests administered by date, total test results, and patients recovered. These are essential data points to assess the effectiveness of the strategy and give families peace of mind. 

Similarly, comprehensive testing in private establishments with workers in close proximity, such as food processing facilities, should be disclosed publicly, and include the number of tests administered and results. This will give employees and employers the confidence to safely get back to work.

This data should be part of the daily report from DHSS.

Mitigation and Containment. Facilities and employers should receive clear orders from the state on required mitigation measures upon notification of a positive test. Isolation of those that test positive and contact tracing are essential steps whose effectiveness depends on widespread and rapid testing. Routine state inspections should resume to ensure compliance.

“The success of the Governor’s plan to reopen depends on achieving his own goal of 50,000 tests or more per week. We cannot wait for an outbreak in a nursing home or large manufacturing facility to occur,” says Galloway. “The Governor says we can do this number of tests in a comprehensive way, so Missourians should be able to see his work.”

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