The Phelps/Maries County Health Department continues to struggle with the overwhelming number of cases of COVID-19 in the area. As testing expands and cases continue to rise across the state, the department noted it is experiencing delays in case investigations.
Health Departments across Missouri are experiencing similar delays and the health department said this is for a variety of factors including the delays before the department receives positive test results, not all lab results are received or have correct contact information, if any at all, people avoiding answering their phones or not giving accurate information, and an increasing number of contacts who are declining to disclose their close contacts.
“Health Departments across our region have worked tirelessly to contact each and every positive case as well as all close contacts. However, cases continue to rise. With wide-spread community transmission of COVID-19, contact tracing has shown to be ineffective in determining where a case may have been exposed to COVID-19, or which individuals they may have exposed during their communicable period,” the department said in a recent release. “After exploring expedited contact tracing and community mitigation strategies, the Phelps/Maries County Health Department, in conjunction with the Region I Health Departments, are shifting to a modified approach to contact tracing which will allow positive cases to immediately notify their contacts as soon as they receive positive lab results.”
The department reported it will also be prioritizing case investigation to the most vulnerable populations in the county. “The Phelps/Maries County Health Department will continue to assist places where outbreaks are most likely to occur, such as businesses, schools, and long-term care facilities,” the department said. The department added it will no longer be calling close contacts of positive cases, but will instead focus on case investigations and household contact quarantine.
“If you get a call from your doctor with a positive result, you need to take immediate action to slow the spread of the virus within your friends, family, and coworkers by following the outlined steps on the COVID-19 Patient Guidance Tool handout. Please do not wait for a call from the health department to implement your own contact tracing,” the department said. The individual who received a positive test should immediately notify everyone whom they have had close contact within six feet of the individual for more than a total of 15 minutes starting two days prior to becoming symptomatic.
The department noted it has observed clusters of positive cases due to gathering at local businesses, group gatherings, and long-term care facilities and urged the public to take responsibility and keeping gatherings small.
“We are urging everyone to continue to take responsibility for their own health and to protect others. Please reconsider hosting or attending gathering that bring people that are outside your normal interactions, especially if physical distancing cannot be maintained,” the department said.
According to the health department, as of November 19 there were 531 active cases in Phelps County, with the total positive test up to 1,574 cases to date.
Of the confirmed area cases, 1,359 have been released from isolation. There have been 40 deaths in Phelps County related to COVID-19, with the department noting 29 are attributed to long-term care facilities.
Maries County currently has 76 active cases of COVID-19, with 382 confirmed total cases in the county. Of the total cases, 341 have been released from isolation. There have been five deaths associated with COVID-19 in Maries County, with one being attributed to a long-term care facility.
To check current information, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) COVID dashboard is updated daily. The link to that website is: https://showmestrong.mo.gov/public-health/
According to the state dashboard on Monday, numbers included data reported through November 14. All seven-day metrics are based on the date a test or death occurred and are subject to a three-day delay to ensure data are accurate and complete. As a result, Monday’s numbers were for the date range of November 14 through November 20.
According to the state dashboard, there have been 1,586 confirmed positive cases in Phelps County. The discrepancy could be associated with cases not yet reported to the state, false positives which have been changed, changes to the new dashboard, or errors in reporting. According to the dashboard, there have been 246 new cases reported in Phelps County over the seven-day date range. Phelps County is at 3,558 in cases per 100,000 population to date.
Missouri as a state has a total of 274,897 confirmed cases to date as of November 20. The seven-day positive percent PCR tests are at 20.4 percent and there have been 3,561 confirmed deaths in the state associated with COVID-19. Over the seven-day date range, there have been 123,701 new confirmed cases.
With each case, the health department works with the DHSS to investigate to identify any individual that may have come in close contact with the positive individual to monitor them for symptoms and assist in the containment of the virus. Any close contacts identified by a positive case within the county will be contacted privately by the health department.
Primary symptoms of COVID-19 include a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher, cough, and shortness of breath. Other possible symptoms include body aches, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of taste or smell. The health department reported there are a wide range of symptoms ranging from mild to severe illness, with some not experiencing any symptoms at all during their illness.
The health department asks that anyone who develops symptoms contact their physician and seek testing and to isolate themselves until testing results are known.
For general information and questions regarding the coronavirus, contact the Missouri DHSS hotline at 877-435-8411. The Phelps/Maries County Health Department can be reached by calling 573-458-6010. The department requests that residents not contact them via Facebook as there are too many comments made and someone could be missed.
The health department urges the public to take appropriate precautions, including social distancing, limiting in-person interactions, avoiding contact with people who are sick, covering coughs and sneezes, proper handwashing, cleaning frequently used surfaces, and staying home when sick, to help contain the spread of COVID-19.