ST. LOUIS—Missouri’s online ordering system for free at-home coronavirus test kits was suspended on Wednesday to allow the supplier to catch up with demand. Ordering is expected to reopen Thursday morning.
The system also paused last week for a day due to the overwhelming number of requests.
To ensure the kits are shipped quickly, state officials said a limited supply will be available each day through January. If the order website indicates that the limit has been reached, come back the next day.
Officials also asked Missourians not to store the tests. Only request kits for immediate testing needs.
“With high case rates and limited testing supplies available across the country, now is the time to use these tests, especially for those with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 or who have been exposed to a positive case for COVID-19,” the Missouri Department of Health said. and Senior Services said in a press release.
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If Missouri’s COVID-19 positivity rate increases significantly, the state could work with the vendor to increase daily order allocation, according to the news release.
Missouri’s average positivity rate over the past seven days is 28%, and it’s between 32% and 35% in the city of St. Louis. St. Louis County and St. Charles County, status data show. This means that around one in three coronavirus tests come back positive and many cases are likely undetected.
Over the past week, an average of 7,223 Missourians a day have tested positive for the coronavirus — more than double the number two weeks ago.
Once ordered online, the test kit usually arrives within two days. The kit is good for six months. Once the sample is collected, it must be returned via FedEx within 24 hours using the kit’s free shipping envelope.
Users must provide an email address in order to receive the test result.
If users need help navigating the online ordering system or with shipping, they can call a hotline at 626-434-3596.
With home tests for children hard to come by and test appointments booked at pharmacies and clinics, hospital leaders say many residents are jamming emergency rooms looking for tests.
On Dec. 27, Mercy St. Louis Hospital saw the most people through its emergency department doors in one day, said Dr. Alok Sengupta, chair of Mercy’s emergency department. Other hospitals in the Mercy area are also seeing large numbers of people presenting to the emergency room over the past 10 days.
“A lot of it is patients with milder symptoms who just want to know if they have COVID or not, and then there are patients coming in who just want to be tested after exposure,” Sengupta said. .
It can overwhelm the system because emergency room providers are required to screen everyone seeking care to make sure they are not in an emergency, he said.
The seriously ill are seen first, but the seriousness of some patient complaints is not immediately obvious, and full emergency rooms mean it may take longer to get to those patients.
“There are times when someone has a primary complaint that doesn’t necessarily seem to be emerging and their vital signs are normal, but once we see them and run tests, we find out that something is wrong. ’emergent is who we care about, patients who fall into that bucket,’ Sengupta said.
He urged residents with mild or no symptoms to seek testing options with their doctor or go to a state testing site or clinic.
“When you use the emergency department for these tests,” he said, “it affects the care of patients who really, really need emergency care.”
The state health department also provides testing sites across the state, including six in the St. Louis area. The largest in the area is a drive-through testing event that takes place daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. until January 13 at the St. Charles Family Arena, 2002 Arena Parkway, St. Charles.
Pre-registration and an appointment are required. Residents can go online to health.mo.gov/communitytest to register and see a full list of test events. They can also call 877-435-8411 for assistance.
Update at 2 p.m. with the hospital chief urging residents not to seek coronavirus tests from the emergency room.