St. Francois County has seen 652 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 so far in October, and Health Center Director Amber Elliott is concerned that Halloween festivities over the next week could cause another spike.
“Halloween could look different this year and should look different this year,” Elliott said.
There is still widespread community transmission, she said, as most of the cases in October have been outside of the Department of Corrections and long-term care facilities.
The county’s total number cases topped 3,000 on Friday as the health center reported 82 new cases, bringing the total to 3,014 since March 22.
The health center also reported a new COVID-related death, bringing the total to 23.
There are 468 active cases; of those, 50 are related to the DOC outbreaks and 67 are related to long-term care facilities.
Elliott said that while the positivity rate had dipped below 10% a few weeks ago, that number is back up to 12.4%. The county is averaging 35-40 new cases a day in the last couple of days.
“So we are seeing an increase in cases and that’s similar to what we're seeing across the country and in the state and other regions,” she said.
The health center did release guidance earlier this week around Halloween activities, listing low-risk to high-risk activities. For example, a Halloween movie night with members of your household is considered low-risk. A small outdoor costume party with distancing and safe practices is considered medium-risk, and traditional trick-or-treating is considered high-risk.
“So I think people do have to assess what is best for them and their family,” Elliott explained. “So traditional Halloween, where we go door-to-door and are face-to-face with people is probably not ideal if we're being realistic and looking at how this disease spreads.”
For example, Elliott said, drive-through trunk-or-treats are a good option.
“I think those are all good ways to still experience the holiday and have fun at this time of the year but also remembering that we are in the midst of the pandemic,” she said. “Even though the risk to children right now, that we know, is low as far as severe disease, it's not for other people in the community. We all have to practice personal responsibility to help protect those individuals as well.”
The holidays are a time for gathering.
“Gatherings are a place where we're seeing transmission happen,” Elliott said, “especially because people seem to feel more comfortable with people who are their family members, even if they're not inside their house, because it feels like you trust them. And it's really not a trust thing.”
People who are asymptomatic or who have mild symptoms can spread the virus, she added. So preventing the spread is key.
Elliott is concerned not just about people being indoors more now that the weather is getting colder, but also because of pandemic fatigue.
“I think we're all feeling that across the country,” she said. “We can't get lax. We do tend to see at the times when people are gathering increases in cases of other communicable diseases and I think it's certainly a concern.”
Although the St. Francois County Health Center Board of Trustees decided not to extend the mask mandate on Thursday, the health center is still strongly recommending that community members wear face coverings when in public places and when within six feet of someone outside your household.
Farmington’s Maplebrook Senior Living by Americare this week reports 100% negative COVID-19 tests from its last round of facility-wide testing, according to a Friday release from the facility.
As a result, the facility has lifted its in-room quarantine in the assisted living building. The quarantine was lifted and normal operations resumed in the Arbors building last week.
Since the first positive test the first week of October, six residents tested positive and all six recovered. Thirty-one residents were protected from the virus. Two employees tested positive and recovered.
“We want to thank every one of our residents and families for their support during this challenging time,” said Patricia Cokingtin, senior vice president of Americare. “We are very proud of our team at Maplebrook, who lived our philosophy every day by putting residents first.”
The Ste. Genevieve County Health Department reported 17 new cases on Friday. There are now 83 active, 15 total probable, and 379 total cases.
The Madison County Health Department reported 12 new cases, bringing the total to 51 active and 518 total cases.
The Iron County Health Department reported 10 new cases. The county now has 30 active cases and 209 total cases.
Nikki Overfelt is a reporter for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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