COVID-19 drive-through test site in Ozark

A HEALTH WORKER FROM COX HEALTH administers a COVID-19 test to a patient in her car with assistance from the Christian County CERT volunteer at a drive-through test site in Ozark on Sept. 10, 2020.

A state of emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic has been extended to March 31, 2021, Missouri Governor Mike Parson announced at a Thursday morning press briefing.

Parson cited statistics for Missouri's total volume of confirmed COVID-19 cases from the first reported case in March to the present.

"There were more cases in October than in those first eight months. The first half of November, the first 15 days of November, is more than the numbers of the full month of October. These numbers are growing at a very fast rate, and we have to understand that, that it will put a stress on the systems if we don't change the behavior of how we conduct ourselves," Parson said.

At last report, Christian County had 1,866 active cases of COVID-19 as of Nov. 16. It brings the total to 3,515 documented cases of illness from the coronavirus, according to the Christian County Health Department. A total of 23 Christian County residents are hospitalized, and 20 have died since June 2020.

At the end of October, Christian County had 1,279 active cases of COVID-19 and 2,630 total cases reported, which represents an increase of 885 cases over 16 days.

At the end of September 2020, Christian County’s total case count was 1,546 cases, with 743 active, and there had been 28 hospitalizations with five deaths.

COVID-19 deaths in Christian County have tripled over a month and a half. Active cases have more than doubled, and the total case volume has increased by 127 percent from the end of September to the middle of November, according to figures from the Christian County Health Department.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services issued a public health warning for the entire state of Missouri containing sets of guidelines for county commissioners, mayors and city governments, including data on how COVID-19 is impacting their communities based on an average per 100,000 people.

It's not just the coronavirus, but the fatigue that comes with taking prevention measures that are weighing on everyone.

"Everybody wants so bad to go back to, quote, 'a normal life.' We're not going to be able to do that, not for several months, even with the vaccine--the great news of the vaccine coming in December, which is going to be a tremendous help," Parson said.

Even if a vaccine is FDA-approved in December, it won't be rolled out for large scale public availability until early 2021.

"Until then, this virus is out there, and we've got to do everything we can as individuals to stop the virus, to help our health care industry that they can meet the demands for the future," Parson said.

Dr. Randall Williams, Director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, acknowledged that the rollout of a vaccine will not provide an immediate stop to the spread of COVID-19.

"It's not the vaccine that will get us there, it's vaccinations," Williams said.

Some of the $10.4 million allocated to Christian County from the state government through the federal CARES Act has been placed into reserve funds for the event that a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available on a large scale. The Christian County Emergency Management Agency is putting together a plan to distribute and give vaccinations to residents of Christian County who want them. 

That doesn’t mean that all 80,000 or more of Christian County’s residents will be rounded up and administered shots. It would mean that vaccines would be made available in places other than hospitals and clinics in effort to reach the majority of Christian County’s population, Christian County Director of Emergency Management Phil Amtower said.

“Not everybody is going to get the vaccine, but even if 60 percent do, that’s still 50-something-thousand people. To operate a pod site, we call them — we’re going to need seven in the county, and we’re probably going to run 12-hour shifts for two weeks to do this,” Amtower said in a previous interview with the Headliner News.

To protect the state's economy and the lifestyle that Missourians enjoy, the state government is encouraging everyone to take actions to curb the spread of COVID-19. "It's not about us as individuals, it's about really protecting other people to make sure the spread stops," Parson said.

Parson said it is not the government's responsibility, but the responsibility of everyone as a citizen to take steps to protect one another.

"The holidays are coming, and as the governor of the state of Missouri, I am not going to mandate who goes in the front door of your home," Parson said.

Parson recommends all Missourians use masks in public places and when they come into close contact with non-household members, maintain Centers for Disease Control-recommended social distancing space of at least 6 feet between themselves and unrelated persons, and frequent hand washing and use of hand sanitizer.

"Our Thanksgiving will not look the same as in years past. My inlaws are in their 80s, and they both have underlying health conditions, and we are not going to expose them,” Parson said.

Williams gave some advice for people planning to celebrate Thanksgiving with travel or with a gathering at home.

"If you know you're going to be with somebody that maybe has comorbidities, you may want to semi-quarantine yourself for at least five days before you go," Williams said. "You've got to be willing to change your plans if you become symptomatic."

If you still decide to travel or host a Thanksgiving gathering, Williams recommends that you take additional precautions for the safety of yourself and for others.

"Once you get there, outdoors is better than indoors, social distance, wear a mask, and limit the size--limit the gathering. The overall message is you have to be much more thoughtful than you've ever been about Thanksgiving and you have to adapt," Williams said.

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