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COVID-19 deaths rise by three in area counties
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COVID-19 deaths rise by three in area counties

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Health Center prepares for coronavirus

There were three new COVID-19 related deaths confirmed in the area on Monday.

The St. Francois County Health Center reported 77 new confirmed cases and confirmed two more deaths, bringing the total to 11. They said both community members were of advanced age and had underlying health conditions.

The Madison County Health Department also reported their county’s second death.

“The individual had been receiving medical attention and was hospitalized,” the health department said. “Our condolences go out to the family and caregivers.”

In St. Francois County, there are now 660 active cases; 334 are related to the Department of Corrections outbreaks and 47 are associated with long-term care facilities.

The total number of cases for the county since March 22 is 2,241.

Overwhelmed with the recent spike in COVID-19 cases, the health center is about 300 cases behind in contract tracing and investigation, according to director Amber Elliott.

This is their number one priority, so they are now receiving help from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

“So you may get a call if you're resident in St. Francois County from DHSS, and that is because they are helping us so that we can get caught up,” Elliott said during Friday’s update on Facebook live.

As per DHSS criteria, the health center is prioritizing cases involving kids 3 through 21, so they can control school outbreaks.

In September, the number of cases in ages 0-9 has risen by 22; in ages 10-19, they have gone up by 65.

“Be patient with us,” Elliott said. “I know we are behind, and again, the volume of cases has really affected our ability to be able to investigate in a timely manner, which is imperative for contact tracing.”

The health center is still trying to hire more contract tracers and nurses, she said.

The St. Francois County Commission awarded the health center roughly $584,000 in CARES Act funding, she said, which they haven’t received yet.

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“But I do you think we will receive that soon,” Elliott explained. “We're working on a memorandum of understanding with the county and the state, so that we can have access to that funding.”

The health center’s 54-page application for the funding can be viewed on their website.

She said $300,000 of the funding was slated to go toward testing, but that can’t happen without more nurses. And contract testing is mandated to be the first priority.

So that money will likely be repurposed for personnel, contact tracers, and nurses, if they can find them, Elliott added. They also need to rent more office space.

“All of that money has to be used for COVID-19,” she said. “The state has very specific guidelines as to what you can use that for and you have to substantiate that.

"Those are things that we're used to. We have contracts and grants, most of our budget is made up of federal funding or contracts and grants. And so we're very used to having to substantiate every single purchase. We have a completely clean audit last year. So that's really nothing new for us.”

Elliott also said these problems are not unique to St. Francois County.

“Other health departments are having the same issues,” she added.

Bismarck reports case

The Bismarck School District reported a confirmed case in an individual at the high school on Monday.

“Through our contract tracing, we have worked to identify any individuals who are considered close contacts,” the district’s letter said. “At this time, it appears that there are no students who are close contacts. If we become aware of close contacts, we will contact them and their parents/guardians. They would also be contacted by the St. Francois County Health (Center).”

Area counties

In Madison County, there are now 46 active and 327 total cases, 13 more since their last report.

On Saturday, the Madison County Health Department reported the following possible exposure: Calvary Church Bus #9, Sept. 23, 6-9 p.m., monitor for symptoms through Oct. 7.

On Sunday, the Ste. Genevieve County Health Department reported the following possible exposure: St. Joseph Catholic Church (Zell), Sept. 26, 12:45-1:45 p.m., monitor for symptoms through Oct. 10.

Nikki Overfelt is a reporter for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at noverfelt@dailyjournalonline.com.

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