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600 cars in line at COVID-19 testing site in Missouri

December 30, 2021 GMT

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The latest COVID-19 surge in Missouri has residents scrambling to get tested, but having difficulty finding a place to do it.

Urgent care centers, pharmacies and other places offering COVID-19 tests are struggling to keep up with demand. In the small eastern Missouri city of Winfield, a state-sponsored site had been, until recently, administering about 50 tests per week.

But by 11 a.m. Wednesday, an hour after the site opened, 600 cars were waiting in line, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported, citing comments made by Winfield police to the state health department. The traffic backup was so bad that police and city officials closed the site due to safety concerns.

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Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services spokeswoman Lisa Cox told the Post-Dispatch that the department plans to add an additional testing site in St. Louis this weekend, three sites in St. Louis next week, and one to three sites in Kansas City.

Meanwhile, Republican Gov. Mike Parson on Thursday announced he’s letting the pandemic-related state of emergency expire on Friday. In a statement, he said state government is ready to help but “there is no longer a need for a state of emergency.”

“Thanks to the effectiveness of the vaccine, widespread efforts to mitigate the virus, and our committed health care professionals, past needs to continue the state of emergency are no longer present,” Parson said.

The state’s COVID-19 dashboard on Thursday reported 2,265 people hospitalized with the virus, the highest number since August. Health experts across the state say the surge is far from over.

“We anticipate things will get worse before they get better,” said Dr. Hilary Babcock, a Washington University infectious disease specialist at BJC HealthCare. “The case numbers are really staggering, and are rising at a pace that we have never seen before.”

In Springfield, CoxHealth had 66 inpatient COVID-19 cases two days before Christmas. The hospital had 110 a week later, the Springfield News-Leader reported. A hospital study found that 94.6% of those hospitalized earlier this week were not vaccinated.

The Kansas City region also is being hit hard. The Kansas City Star reported that 1,809 new cases were reported in the metro area on Wednesday alone. The total includes cases in Kansas City and its suburbs in both Missouri and Kansas.