HANNIBAL — Marion County Health Department Administrator Jean McBride is asking for community members’ support as the number of positive cases continues to reach higher levels in Missouri and in Marion County.
Department staff members have been working diligently to fight the spread of the coronavirus through contact tracing and confirming each, and McBride urged county residents to take steps like wearing masks, social distancing, avoiding large gathering and practicing good hygiene to stop the steadily climbing case numbers. Statewide, 28,000 new cases are being reported in a week, or about 4,000 new cases per day, compared to 2,800 cases per day the week before, according to the Department of Health and Senior Services. McBride is seeing a similar trend in Marion County — as of Thursday, Nov. 19, the Marion County Health Department reported 1,648 total cases, with 30 new cases, three reinfections and 293 active cases.
McBride talked with Gov. Parson on Nov. 17, and he stressed rural Missouri residents need to make changes to curb the spread of the virus. Mc Bride said the trends in Marion County are reflecting the situation across the Show-Me State. The death rate is increasing, with 19 deaths reported so far. The Department of Health and Senior Services reported there are currently 2,734 people hospitalized for COVID-19 in the state, with 42% of total beds and 34% of inpatient beds remaining — 658 people are in the Intensive Care Unit, and 29% of ICU beds remain. Sixty-seven patients are hospitalized in Northeast Missouri, with 44% of total beds remaining and 35% of inpatient beds remaining. There are 40 people in the ICU in the region, with four percent of ICU beds remaining.
McBride pointed out as more people are in isolation, quarantined and hospitalized, there are less fellow community members available to provide needed services like medical care, education, commerce and other aspects.
The Center for Disease Control has now stated that wearing appropriate cloth masks over the nose and mouth protects the person wearing the mask along with everyone around them, and McBride recommended everyone two years of age and older wear a mask in public places. People can practice good hygiene by sneezing and coughing into an elbow (and covering the face) and handwashing to kill unknown germs and viruses. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are also effective when handwashing isn’t an option.
People are reminded to avoid large gatherings, as the virus is transmitted from person to person, regardless of if they are family, friends, coworkers or strangers, McBride said. Social distancing of six feet whenever possible is also effective, and anyone who feels sick should stay home to minimize the chance of exposing others.
COVID does not just present with a fever, in fact, McBride said most people who test positive do not ever have a fever. Anyone with symptoms similar to sinus or allergy issues, including coughing or shortness of breath, should get tested for COVID, McBride said. Some positive cases have no symptoms while others have a severe illness and complications which can result in death.
When someone gets tested for COVID, McBride stressed they must quarantine until they receive the results. If the results come back negative, the person no longer has to be in quarantine. A positive test means a person must be in isolation for 10 days.
McBride said testing has been expanding throughout the region, and the 15-minute rapid response tests are in widespread use in neighboring Quincy, Ill. However, the department receives calls right after the test is administered and before department staff even receive the results — the high level of calls slows down the process of contact tracing and verifying reports they received.
“Those types of calls are flooding in and causing us not to be able to do the older cases, because we’re trying to answer the calls that are coming in,” McBride said. “If you test positive, you need to stay home and isolate away from others. We’ll give you a call as soon as we get a confirmed positive – it depends on where they test on how long that takes.”
McBride wanted to thank staff members for their diligent work in contact tracing and addressing situations like reaching someone with an incorrect address or phone number, sending results from another county to the proper department and providing guidance to people who call, while providing regular services like immunizations, WIC Clinics, birth certificates and STD testing.
“I have a great bunch, and they’re working so hard,” McBride said. “I do appreciate them.”
Lately, people have been calling to ask about being in quarantine because they tested positive for COVID. But department staff members didn’t know because contact tracing depends on everyone being as transparent as possible who they came in contact with.
“We had never heard of them, because if that positive person does not give them as a direct contact, we wouldn’t know to call them,” McBride said, noting contact tracing is “kind of an honor system.”
The health department receives only positive results, two to five days after a person has been notified by testing officials. Staff members will contact a person as soon as possible to review symptoms and discuss details like isolation dates if they are positive.
“We are trying the best we can. There’s only so many of us in here,” McBride said, asking everyone to remain patient as they reach out to each person. “We do have the best interest in the community at heart.”