ST. LOUIS — Urgent Cares in our area are struggling to keep up with the demand for coronavirus testing.
The CEO of one of the largest urgent cares in the area said a lack of tests means the number of actual cases in Missouri is likely much higher than we know.
Test kits available outside of a hospital are hard to find and come with a cost.
"I personally believe we are not going to be able to stop this huge wave," said Dr. Matt Bruckel, CEO of Total Access Urgent Care. "It's going to make a lot of people sick. It's going to cause a significant number of deaths. But every year, 50,000 Americans die from the flu and it doesn't even make the news."
Bruckel says during an already busy time of year, patients at his 25 locations keep flooding in with questions and concerns about the virus.
"Our volumes are probably 20-40% higher than normal," said Dr. Bruckel.
Dr Bruckel said his 25 urgent cares are seeing a large influx of patients seeking testing for virus. But urgent care staff tell the ITEAM they are not equipped with enough protective gear and test kits to keep up with demand.
They advised anyone looking for coronavirus testing to go to Mercy Hospital’s drive-through testing area. Anyone seeking a test must call Mercy’s COVID-19 Clinical Support Line at 314-251-0500 before arriving.
For those wanting to be tested, there have been plenty of obstacles due to a shortage of tests available in Missouri and nationwide.
"That is a failing. It is a failing. Let's admit it … a system where you put it out there in the public, and a physician asks for it, and you go get it," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of Infectious Disease earlier this week. "The idea of anybody getting it easily the way people do in other countries are doing it. We're not set up for that. Do I think we should be? Yes. But we're not."
According to the Missouri health department, only 94 people have been tested statewide as of Saturday. There are three 'presumptive positive' cases.
According to the health department, "Presumptive positive cases mean individuals with at least one respiratory specimen that tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 at a state or local laboratory. Test positive at the Missouri State Public Health Laboratory, pending confirmatory testing at the CDC. Following confirmation at CDC, the case will change to Positive (Confirmed)."
The state is limiting who is tested because, right now, it only has the capacity to test about 1,000 samples through the Missouri Public Health Laboratory.
It's following strict guidelines about who to test, based on specific symptoms, and travel histories.
"Luckily, I've heard nationally and internationally most people who are exposed to this infection either have very mild symptoms or no symptoms at all," said Dr. Bruckel.
There are some limited commercial COVID-19 tests available, but they’re mostly being given to hospitals instead of Urgent Cares, staff told the ITEAM.
"We are able to get testing through Quest and Labcorp as well. Unfortunately, it takes 3-4 days," said Dr. Bruckel.
The commercial tests are not free but could provide you with some peace of mind, if you can find one.
"The people that want to be tested who definitely want the answer ... No, it's not $2,000, it's not $20,000. $200 Is something most people can afford and I'm sure insurance will cover it. But $200 is a lot of money for a single test," said Dr. Bruckel.
This is a reportable disease. That means regardless of who does the testing, any positive results must be reported to the state and the federal government.