Missouri evaluates over 60 for new virus but none are ill

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) – Missouri public health officials said Thursday that they have been keeping tabs on several dozen people who have may been exposed to the new coronavirus or traveled to places that put them at risk, but that none has become ill.

Missouri Health Director Randall Williams said he has been in the nation’s capitol this week meeting with health officials in President Donald Trum’’s administration about preparations for a potential outbreak of the virus that causes the COVID-19 illness. The goal is to have federal, state and local health agencies, medical providers and emergency responders all aligned on what to do if the disease starts spreading in the U.S. as it has in China, parts of Asia and elsewhere.

The state health department’s response management team has been meeting daily for the past month about the coronavirus, Williams said.

More than 60 people in Missouri have been evaluated for the disease due to their travel, potential exposure or symptoms. But only a few of those had specimens sent to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for tests, and all were negative.

On Thursday, Missouri received federal approval for its state health lab to conduct its own tests for the coronavirus. State Public Health Laboratory Director Bill Whitmar said that should speed up the test time, allowing results to be determined in a day or less.

Although some states are considering increasing their public health budgets to prepare for and respond to the new coronavirus, Williams said Missouri does not need any additional money at this time.

Missouri House Speaker Elijah Haahr said Thursday that he is creating a special committee that will hold a public hearing on Monday for health department officials to discuss the steps they have taken.

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