After announcing earlier this week the state wants to test more Missourians for COVID-19, Gov. Mike Parson said Wednesday the Missouri National Guard will serve to expand testing across the state.
Parson said Wednesday the state's goal is to test 7,500 people per day.
Newly-released data in an interactive dashboard from the state tracking Missouri's COVID-19 cases, testing, deaths, hospitalizations and other details showed the most people ever tested in a day had been approximately 5,400 people on May 11.
Dr. Randall Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said Monday the state's capacity for testing was 8,000-9,000 and projected within about a week to be able to do 10,000 tests per day.
The state is encouraging every Missourian with any symptoms of COVID-19 to be tested — a major change from previous weeks when testing by state authorities was being limited to certain critical or high-risk groups of people.
DHSS does not need to approve testing that does not involve the State Public Health Laboratory.
Symptoms of COVID-19 include cough, fever, repeated shaking with chills, headache, new loss of taste or smell, chills, muscle pain, sore throat, and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
"Testing and economic recovery will go hand in hand," Parson said Wednesday.
"We do not need a setback right now," he said Tuesday — a setback being a possible flare-up of COVID-19 cases after the holiday weekend.
The state on May 4 began to ease restrictions on businesses and activities, though social distancing orders remain in effect through at least May 31.
The new push to test will include focusing on places with a lot of people close together in confined spaces, including long-term care facilities such as nursing homes, meat-packing plants and correctional facilities.
More details on the expansion of testing are anticipated today, but Adjutant Gen. Levon Cumpton, leader of the Missouri National Guard, said Wednesday the National Guard is working with DHSS, the Office of Administration and other state agencies to expand testing.
Cumpton said 1,000 soldiers and airmen are already working with state authorities, including in duties to screen state workers' health as workers enter state office buildings, assist with the decontamination of N95 respirator masks, distribute food to school-age children, support testing by the Missouri State Public Health Laboratory and support the operation of an alternate care site in Florissant.
Cumpton said the expansion of testing will not necessarily require deploying any more soldiers or airmen, but "should we need more, they're available."
The Missouri National Guard has been involved since March 27 with the response to the COVID-19 pandemic — the date Parson activated the Guard.
Cumpton did not expect the National Guard's role in distributing food to expand, and he anticipated those operations may begin to decrease.
National Guard members began to distribute food to children in some schools and districts in April, including at the Osage County R-2 School District in Linn.
In terms of the deployment of other resources, Mark Stringer, director of the Missouri Department of Mental Health, said Wednesday his department has developed a Behavioral Health Strike Team that can quickly provide counseling to communities.
Stringer said the strike team had been piloted for the Branson duck boat tragedy and had recently been fully activated and deployed for the first time to assist National Guard members with crisis counseling for families, individuals and deployed service members in the St. Louis area.
Missourians in need of counseling assistance to cope during the pandemic can call the federal Disaster Distress Helpline at 800-985-5990. Other resources are also available at dmh.mo.gov/disaster-services/covid-19-information.