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Missouri’s ‘box in’ testing strategy ‘important example’ of protecting vulnerable people during COVID-19, Birx says


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri’s “box in” testing strategy during COVID-19 outbreaks received praise from Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House Coronavirus Task Force response coordinator, Tuesday. 

“This ‘box in’ strategy that is being used here in Missouri I think really is an important example of how to protect vulnerable individuals. When you see what Missouri has done with the longterm care facilities, when you see what they’ve done with the VA care facilities, it’s really an important, critical message,” Birx told reporters from the Missouri Capitol.  

The “box in” approach involves testing all staff and residents specifically in longterm and other congregate living facilities to keep the virus contained and prevent further spread. It focuses on contact tracing and quarantine as well. 

The method was first introduced to Missouri officials by Birx during a conference call in early April and officials “aggressively” used the strategy throughout Missouri, according to the Governor’s Office. 

Nearly 470 longterm care facilities in Missouri have reported at least one positive case of COVID-19 among staff, residents, or both, according to the Governor’s Office. The state has used “box in” testing on nearly 400 congregate living facilities, administering more than 115,000 tests through this method. 

Birx met with Gov. Mike Parson, Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) Director Randall Williams, and other state officials Tuesday as part of her 20 state tour in the U.S. Birx has served as the response coordinator for the White House task force since February.

“It was an honor to host Dr. Birx in Missouri today and learn more about where we stand from a national perspective,” Parson said. “I want to thank her, the president, vice president, and the entire Trump administration for all they’ve done for both the country and Missouri throughout COVID-19. We appreciate their continued support and guidance during this unprecedented time.” 

In April and May, more than 7 percent of all coronavirus cases in Missouri were fatal. But so far in August, less than half a percent have turned deadly, officials said Tuesday. 

More than 69,000 people in Missouri have tested positive for coronavirus as of Tuesday afternoon, and 1,402 people have died. 

Birx also said the outbreak seen in March and April was different than the spike following Memorial Day weekend. While the earlier outbreak was mostly in metro areas throughout the U.S., the more recent spike “was really a reflection of Americans moving into summer and traveling around the country.” 

This secondary spread was seen first among asymptomatic, younger people, Birx said.

“We had a productive discussion with Gov. Parson along with state and local health officials about how the federal government can continue to partner with Missouri to keep its citizens safe,” Birx said. “The [Trump] administration continues to encourage all Americans to slow the spread of COVID-19 by practicing social distancing including avoiding crowded places, wearing a mask, and washing their hands.” 

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