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Missouri will end at-home COVID testing program just a few months after promoting it

Covid-19 testing supplies.
Corinne Boyer
Kansas News Service
COVID-19 testing has dropped dramatically in Missouri, prompting state officials to end an at-home testing program.

Missourians are encouraged to use tests obtained through the state before processing ends after March 31.

Citing a decrease in testing, Missouri is ending a program that providing at-home COVID-19 PCR testing for residents.

The testing program, which began in May 2021, offers Missourians free tests through the mail.The tests are then processed by a laboratory to provide results within 72 hours.

That program will end after March 31, according to Department of Health and Seniors Services officials, who said tests should be used now or before their six-month expiration date.

Tests are still available for order until then. Officials say the PCR tests should be used not just for symptomatic people, but also for periodic surveillance, especially for those interacting with vulnerable people or in crowds.

Most of the program’s activity took place in January, according to a DHSS press release, when state officials encouraged residents to take advantage of it. However, due to limited supplies, the state initially asked that tests should only be used by people experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.

The health department paused the program briefly in January due to demand that outstripped capacity.

The numbers of tests administered in Missouri has dropped significantly — falling from a peak of more than 200,000 PCR tests per week in early January to just over 50,000 per week in early March.

The percentage of testing showing positive results has dropped to 3.1%, which is the lowest positivity rate in Missouri since testing became available, according to state data.

Average confirmed cases have dropped below 200 per day in Missouri, aligning the state’s case rate with the national average.

Health department officials also said increased availability of testing options also influenced the decision to end the at-home program.

Several local governments and other organizations, including Kansas City, Missouri, and the University of Missouri-Kansas City, are offering free PCR testing to community members at various sites across the metro area.

At the beginning of January, officials said the state at-home program would continue as long as federal funding would allow.

As a health care reporter, I aim to empower my audience to take steps to improve health care and make informed decisions as consumers and voters. I tell human stories augmented with research and data to explain how our health care system works and sometimes fails us. Email me at alexs@kcur.org.
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