LEE’S SUMMIT, MO. – The number of people being tested for COVID-19 in Kansas City, Missouri is falling, and health officials say the trend is both good and bad.
It is good because the number of people who get sick, go to hospital and die has also decreased.
It’s bad because healthcare leaders rely on a series of tests to get the most accurate information to help create guidelines on masks, curfews, capacity constraints, and more.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that the Kansas City area of nine counties run 3,000 daily tests for the best information. In February the Region fell below this benchmark.
The extremely cold weather may have contributed to fewer people being tested.
“It is important that when we talk about a decline in cases, we deal with these claims as carefully as possible so that the decisions we make in the future give us the best chance of being successful in the long term, which is why we are within our Strategy to advance our vaccination efforts actually need testing, ”said Ray Dlugolecki, assistant director of health for the Jackson County, Missouri Department of Health.
Jackson County and many other health departments continue to host free testing events. Many now offer saliva-based tests that eliminate the need for an uncomfortable nasopharyngeal swab.
In Wyandotte County, Kansas, Vibrant Health and the Health Equity Task Force are offering free groceries as an incentive for people to be tested at their pop-up locations.
Unified Government Public Health Department chief epidemiologist Elizabeth Groenweghe said testing is more important now than ever.
She explained that the health department would be barely able to keep up with the contact tracing once the COVID-19 cases peaked on the subway around Thanksgiving.
“Now that the case numbers are so small, we can react really robustly,” said Groenweghe. “It’s very, very important that we identify these cases.”
Groenweghe, Dlugolecki and Dr. Rex Archer, the head of Kansas City’s Missouri Health Department, agrees testing is needed to understand if new variants of the virus are present in the community and to identify people with the virus in order to isolate them and quarantine.
Most of the tests the Kansas City Health Department ran in one day throughout February were 56. It can run 150 tests a day. The last time 100 people were tested was January 11, 2021.
Dr. Sanmi Areola, of Johnson County, Kansas, Department of Health and Environment, and others said testing is critical as states roll out the vaccine to identify the best methods of intervention to stay ahead of the virus.
“We need to have a good understanding of what is going on in the community with this virus so we can avoid the spikes that really put us back in first place, and we don’t want this to happen, especially if we do are so close that the vaccine is available, ”added Dlugolecki.
Each health department has listed information on their website to find free test sites and make appointments: