New "boxed in testing" strategy hitting rural Missouri as COVID-19 cases rise

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CASSVILLE, Mo. -- The state of Missouri has a new strategy called "boxed in testing" that is designed to provide more resources to hotspot areas across the state.

The term refers to targeting specific areas in Missouri that have seen higher jumps in cases than other areas in the sate. Several of those hotspot areas have been rural communities.

McDonald, Barry, Newton and Jasper counties have all seen increased cases and are now expected to be a part of this new strategy.

Director of the Missouri Health and Senior Services Randall Williams told KY3 the strategy comes with several benefits.

"I think it is two-fold. One it prevents more people from getting infected," he said. "And we also think it prevents mortality."

Williams said the strategy will allow the state increase testing to a much higher level than previously in April and May.

"It allows a robust ability to go in and do lots and lots of tests," he said. "And we can now do 12,000 tests a day in Missouri, if not more."

A spokesperson from the Barry County Health Department said he thinks the strategy will be very helpful.

"It gives you an opportunity to locate potential exposures and things and try to limit the movement as best as possible," spokesperson Roger Brock said.

The goal is to target and isolate those cases.

"Try to cut down that circle down and make it a smaller circle versus a larger circle of potential contacts," Brock said. "The main objective is to try find those cases as quickly as possible and try to limit the opportunity for the spread of the virus."

Williams said the targeting strategy includes more resources like more testing kits, medicine for patients and help from the Missouri National Guard.

Steve Douglas with Access Family Care in Newton County said the help from the state's new strategy will make testing sites much more efficient.

"For us the sheer volume will be nice," he said. "Because the sites can test around 600 people a day. And they have trained professionals with the National Guard to do that. So I think just the volume and professionalism will be a nice option for people."

Douglas also said he think it will help ease peoples' fears.

"I think it helps to calm people that if they have a concern they know there is action being taken by the departments of health and by the state," he said.

Health leaders said people in these "hotspot" counties likely travel across neighboring counties for work. When they travel, there are risks of the virus being spread. They said they think this will be the best way for counties to stay alert and keep track of cases as people continue to do so.