Update 1:00 p.m. Thursday, March 26: a fifth resident at the assisted living facility has tested positive for COVID-19 and is in the hospital, according to the Springfield-Greene County Health Department.
After four people tested positive for COVID-19 at a Springfield assisted living facility—three of whom have since died—state and local officials are investigating the cases in an effort to prevent the spread within that facility.
But a state official says that not all of the residents will be tested for the coronavirus at this time due to a scarcity of tests. The assisted living facility is Morningside of Springfield East.
Clay Goddard, director of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, told media this week that the residents within the facility are being monitored closely—but that state protocol right now is to only test residents for COVID-19 if they show symptoms of the disease.
“If symptoms do develop, they will be tested. The testing will not be done, to my understanding, in the absence of symptoms. That’s the protocol that the state is using,” Goddard said in a virtual press conference.
Dean Linneman, director of Missouri's Division of Regulation and Licensure, confirmed that the state is not able to do more widespread testing in nursing homes and assisted care facilities due to a scarcity of tests.
"The reason for that is the availability of testing is not as high as we would like, although it's improving every day. That availability of testing is not at the level that we have the ability to test every single one in every facility that it shows up positive, in an expedited manner," Linneman told KSMU.
He said investigators are doing their due diligence to "cast our net wide" to identify anyone who may have been at risk for exposure within the assisted living facility. It was unclear whether people who are found to have been in contact with the four cases will be eligible for testing.
The World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said people infected with the new coronavirus may not show symptoms of COVID-19 for up to two weeks.
And the CDC says older adults, like those making up the bulk of assisted living residents, may be at higher risk for serious complications from the disease.
More than two dozen seniors have died from COVID-19 complications at a long-term care and nursing facility in Washington state. The public health department in King County, Washington, where those deaths occurred, says demand for testing continues to outpace the ability to address the need there, too.
Linneman said as more tests become available, then Missouri may consider changing its policy.
But for now, he said, the state is following CDC guidelines on which residents and staff should be tested in assisted living facilities and nursing homes—even at facilities where there has been an outbreak.