University of Missouri Health Care is working to implement drive-thru coronavirus testing in Columbia, an infectious disease expert told reporters Monday.


In a news conference arranged by MU Health, Dr. Christelle Ilboudo, assistant professor of clinical child health, said the details are being worked out.


"The administrators are working really hard at setting those up and will come out in a statement in a day or two once those plans are in place," Ilboudo said.


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Testing is increasingly available in Missouri as the state ramps up efforts to track and fight the disease. Currently, however, only people at high risk of contracting the disease — who have traveled overseas, come into contact with someone who is ill or have symptoms — are being tested on referrals from physicians.


Gov. Mike Parson reported the sixth positive test in a tweet early Monday, the third case in Greene County.


As more testing is available,. Parson and Dr. Randall Williams, the director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said during a news conference that the state's criteria will change from travel-related and the most severe cases to trying to find people with coughs and fevers of 104 degrees.


"The good news for the time being is that help is on the way," Parson said. "I think we’re going to be able to see a lot more on the testing side of it that will reassure the people of the state."


Missouri has set up a COVID-19 hotline to provide advice and information about the respiratory illness that causes a dry cough, fever and can lodge in the lungs, causing pneumonia. The number is 877-435-8411.


"To tell people not to panic is a bit condescending, so I wouldn’t do that, so I would say just be prepared," Ilboudo said. "Be ready for the potentially ’what would I do if I have to be quarantined at home, if I have to self-isolate.’ And if those plans are clear, then people panic less and they know what to do next."


The rapid rise in the number of known cases in the U.S. is likely to continue, Ilboudo said.


"I think if we look at projections from other countries, we have yet to reach that bell curve or see the worst of it," Ilboudo said. "That is why social distancing becomes crucial."


The number of organizations closing offices and facilities is also increasing rapidly. On Monday, the Daniel Boone Regional Library announced it would close after last week stating it would cancel programming and outreach to reduce the number of instances where large numbers of people gather.


The decisions by school districts is still a case-by-case decision, Ilboudo said. So far, she noted, there are no known instances of community transmission of COVID-19 in Missouri.


The Centers for Disease Control on Sunday recommended that all gatherings of 50 or more people be canceled for at least the next eight weeks.


"People should prepare, get ready for the eventuality of being quarantined by the (Columbia-Boone County Health Department)," Ilboudo said. "Now is the time to make sure they have all their medical supplies, that they are ready to stay home if they must."


rkeller@columbiatribune.com


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