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CDC begins testing in Missouri after coronavirus outbreak

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has sent investigators to Missouri for the first time during the coronavirus pandemic, according to Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) Director Dr. Randall Williams. 

The move came after a recent spike in positive COVID-19 cases in southwest Missouri. The increases occurred primarily in McDonald, Jasper, Barry, and Newton counties. DHSS identified 310 of the 413 new cases reported on June 20-21 as coming from these areas.

“We’re still very much focused on southwest Missouri,” Williams said during Thursday’s press briefing. “The CDC arrived today. Their lead investigator arrived in Joplin this morning, and the rest of his team gets here tomorrow afternoon, so we’ll be in conversations with them.”

Williams said that the CDC had been active in at least one other state near Missouri prior. 

“They’ve been in northwest Arkansas doing epidemiological tracing around the food processing plants. Last Tuesday, we were on a phone call with Arkansas, and they found them very helpful, so we called the CDC and to my knowledge, this is the first time we’ve had boots on the ground from the CDC [in Missouri],” Williams said. 

“We really were piggybacking off what Arkansas has done. We know there’s been some movement across the state in these populations, and so it just made sense,” he said. 

Williams also said the CDC is primarily doing epidemiological testing to study how the disease is being spread while helping local health officials develop a plan moving forward.

Williams said the recent increase in positive cases was likely due to Missouri’s “box-in” testing strategy occurring in that part of the state. Much of the outbreak occurred at a Tyson food processing plant in McDonald county as well as similar facilities, according to DHSS. 

“It is also important to understand that this is a localized outbreak — not a surge of cases throughout the state —  and together, we are responding accordingly,” he said. 

Williams said the National Guard is continuing to assist with testing across the state. He also said local health departments would continue to do contact tracing in their communities, calling it an integral part of the administration’s strategy.

Gov. Mike Parson said on Tuesday that he has no intention of reclosing Missouri despite the rise in cases.

“We are not overwhelmed, we are not currently experiencing a second wave, and we have no intention of closing Missouri back down at this point in time,” Parson said. 

The state fully reopened last week.

At least 19,421 Missourians have tested positive for COVID-19 and 982 people have died as of Thursday afternoon.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For up-to-date information on coronavirus, check with the CDC and DHSS.