JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Missourinet) — Missouri’s K-12 schools will have to look elsewhere to get COVID-19 rapid antigen tests. Due to supply problems, the state is temporarily suspending reorders it provides to schools.

Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Spokeswoman Mallory McGowin tells Missourinet the state has not received a shipment from the manufacturer in several weeks.

The tests are not only used in schools, but they are also used in the state’s veterans homes, mental health sites, and long-term care centers, for instance.

“This affects everyone,” she says.

McGowin says DESE received word from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) on January 4, that the shipments expected from the manufacturer had not arrived.

“Then at the same time, we saw a dramatic increase in the request in the quantities of tests that were being requested in those reorders. And that’s across all use cases that I talked about just now. So not just schools. It really was a perfect storm of no access to tests and people needing more tests. It happened very quickly and certainly had seen a steady amount of tests being requested from schools, and other use cases. Those all dramatically and very quickly increased as we watched this surge happen,” she says.

She says the tests have often meant the difference between a staff member working or not on a given day.

“It’s obviously a really difficult position for us to be in. These have been an incredibly valuable resource for schools across our state. The ability to in just 15 minutes, tell if a staff member’s runny nose is COVID or allergies or a cold is a difference between that staff member being able to teach their classes that day or not,” she says.

She is not sure when a new shipment will arrive but says the program will re-launch as soon as DESE can.

“That may mean that schools have even more challenges in front of them right now to appropriately staff their buildings for in-person learning each day,” says McGowin.

As a plan B, DHSS is offering new saliva-based tests that deliver results within 48 hours, instead of the typical 15-minute rapid tests. For more information or to sign up for this option, email K12screeningtesting@health.mo.gov.

McGowin say schools can also look for other testing options in their communities.

To prioritize appropriate staffing for in-person learning, DESE is encouraging schools to reserve their test inventory to test only symptomatic staff members.