SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — As Greene County nears its peak with the Omicron surge, a local laboratory is working behind the scenes to get test results to residents and health leaders as fast as possible.
Dynamic DNA has been leading the COVID-19 testing effort in Springfield for the past two years. The facility is currently running all PCR tests collected from Springfield’s state-run testing sites.
AJ Exner with Dynamic DNA says it completed processing all the roughly 900 COVID-19 tests administered at the free drive-thru site at Hammons Field on Tuesday.
Of those, about 45% came back positive.
While many across the country now deal with days-long delays with getting results back, Exner says that likely won’t be the case in Springfield, saying Dynamic DNA has ‘home-court advantage.’
It means PCR tests collected can be processed immediately without having to first be shipped to another laboratory in the state.
“Really, even since the beginning of the pandemic, any result that’s come through Dynamic DNA…nobody’s had to wait any longer than 48 hours,” Exner says.
He says what is slowing down the process is other staff having to personally call each person that tests positive.
“It might take five to ten minutes, well, 5, 10 minutes broken down over an eight-hour day. You know, it adds up quickly,” says Exner. “When you’re trying to call 800 to 900 people and 50% of them are positive, that’s 400 people that you’re having to call. Multiply that by 5 or 10 minutes…you’re not going to get through all of them in one day.”
Folks who test negative will receive text confirmation in lieu of a phone call.
Exner says the data shows Greene County is lagging about two weeks behind St. Louis and Kansas City when it comes to the surge in cases, showing the urgent need for testing to be expanded in the Springfield metro.
Local pharmacies say they haven’t been able to secure PCR tests for weeks. Meanwhile, there’s little local supply of at-home tests, and many options for rapid tests are booked several days out.
It prompted Greene County’s Health Director to acknowledge the extreme challenge of finding testing in Springfield.
Springfield-Greene County Health Director Katie Towns told residents on Wednesday, if you cannot find a test and you are showing symptoms, it’s best to forget about trying to find one and just assume you’ve caught something highly contagious.
“Even if you can’t get tested, stay home until your symptoms resolve and then wear a mask when you’re around others, even if your symptoms are mild,” Towns said during the health department’s weekly COVID-19 briefing.
OzarksFirst reached out to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services on Thursday to ask about any efforts to expand COVID-19 PCR testing in Springfield, just as it already has in both St. Louis and Kansas City.
The state health department responded with a statement, saying in part, “The demand is high all throughout the state right now. However, we are working to bring additional testing opportunities to Springfield very soon.”
DHSS assured Missouri residents there is no shortage of PCR tests at the state level.
You can read the full statement here:
“While we continue to leverage all resources available among contracted partners, local partnerships and federal resources, there is unfortunately not enough for DHSS to sponsor free community testing events in all requested locations. The demand is high all throughout the state right now. However, we are working to bring additional testing opportunities to Springfield very soon. We have recently been focusing on the top 10 counties with the highest case rates (cases/population ratio), but with Springfield being one of the three largest cities, we have been committed to providing testing events weekly since April 2020.
PCR testing supplies is not where we are seeing shortages. Our contracted vendors who provide the community testing on our behalf provide end-to-end testing services, so they bring in the supplies, lab services, staffing, venue, etc. Our at-home kits are also provided through a contracted vendor who takes orders and ships on the state’s behalf. All of these are PCR testing resources (state lab swabs, community testing sites, at-home kits). PCR supplies are not in shortage, but rapid antigen testing supplies have been short since late December. We had shipments of BinaxNOW testing kits coming in and going out (to hospitals, health departments, schools, state-operated health facilities, jails, etc.) for several months, but our last shipment came in on 12/23 without warning.“