Northeast Missouri at 'extreme risk' for virus spread

HANNIBAL — Counties across Northeast Missouri are at what the state calls “extreme risk” for the spread of COVID-19.

New cases of the novel coronavirus are soaring. Between Nov. 16-22, four counties reported a total of 412 new coronavirus cases, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

• Marion County reported 167 new cases, ranging from a daily low of two to a daily high of 54, a seven-day average of 24. The county’s positivity rate was 16%, with a total of 1,680 cases reported since the pandemic was declared – an infection rate of 5,889 per 100,000 people. In Marion County, a total of 16 deaths have been attributed to COVID-19.

• Monroe County reported 45 new cases, ranging from a low of one case to a high of 16 cases, a seven-day average of six new cases per day. The state reports Monroe County’s positivity rate was 26.7%. Since the pandemic was declared, Monroe County had recorded 366 COVID-19 cases, which translates to 4,234 infections per 100,000 people. Four deaths have been attributed to COVID-19 in the county.

• Pike County reported 121 new cases, ranging from a daily low of three to a high of 34, with a seven-day average 17 cases. The positivity rate was reported at 35.7%, with 859 cases recorded since the beginning of the pandemic – a rate of 4,693 per 100,000 people. Eight deaths have been attributed to COVID-19.

• Ralls County reported 79 new cases, ranging from a low of five in a day to a high of 24. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 11, with a positivity rate of 27.6%. Since the pandemic was declared in March, Ralls has recorded 443 cases for an infection rate that translates to 4,297 per 100,000 people. One death has been attributed to COVID-19 in Ralls County.

Jean McBride, administrator of the Marion County Health Department, is urging everyone to help slow the virus.

“I am asking that everyone think about compromises and the people in our community. Think about respect for human life and each other’s welfare. This is not a political issue, it is not to take away rights, it is not to mandate and take away our freedom of choice. Simple basic common-sense actions can help Marion County slow the spread,” McBride said.

Paula Delaney, director of the Monroe County Health Department, said that infections are widespread around the county, but there is no evidence of concentrated clusters.

Delaney said that it is frustrating that many people do not seem to take COVID-19 as a serious threat to public health.

“I am an advocate that life has to go on. I do not favor shutting down and sequestering in our homes, but we have to take precautions — wear a mask and wash hands and maintain our physical distancing. Then we can make progress. Masks do help. I am not saying they are the end-all because they are not, but they are important,” Delaney said.

Gov. Mike Parson recently announced coronavirus guidance that divides counties into different risk categories. Those with 15% or higher positivity rates in a week are considered at “extreme risk.” Counties with positivity rates between 10 and 14% are considered at “critical risk.” Those with positivity rates between 5 and 9% are considered at “serious risk.”

People and businesses in extreme risk counties are urged to limit social group sizes to 10 or less. Masks are strongly advised in all offices and businesses where social distancing is not possible.

The state on Tuesday reported 3,764 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number to 278,661 since the onset of the pandemic. The state also reported 189 new deaths, saying 161 of them occurred previously but had not been reported. Still, 147 of those previously unreported deaths occurred this month.

Hospital capacity remains a major concern. The state’s COVID-19 dashboard says ICU capacity statewide remained at 17% for the second straight day.

McBride is especially concerned that some coronavirus patients are becoming infected for a second time. Some cases have involved people testing positive for the virus in as little as 90 days after tests showed that they were no longer infected.

McBride also said that many people infected by the coronavirus do not have symptoms.

“COVID does not just present with a fever, most positive cases do not ever have a fever. If you have symptoms, question them. Many positive cases thought it was just their allergies or sinus. Be mindful that some positive cases have no symptoms, some have a severe illness and complications that can result in death,” McBride said.

“We all need to work together, think outside the box to accomplish this urgent task of reducing the spread of COVID-19,” McBride said.

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