The Ste. Genevieve Health Department Board held a virtual meeting on Tuesday night to stress the importance of masks. They did not, however, vote on a mask mandate yet.
“We are in a heartbreaking conflict with a cruel enemy and the mask is one of our frontline combat weapons,” Board President Robert Bach said. “We can choose how bad things will be.”
One truth is evident, he said, wearing a mask reduces the transmission of the virus.
“It's that piece of equipment that provides two-way protection,” he explained. “Masks are a simple barrier to help prevent your respiratory droplets from reaching others … The CDC has also determined that the use of masks also help to reduce the inhalation of those droplets by the wearer.”
About 500 viewers tuned in to the virtual meeting.
Board Vice President and Ste. Genevieve Memorial Hospital Chief of Staff Dr. Mathew Bosner said that as of Tuesday there were 964 cases in the county, which represents about 5.5% of the population. On Oct. 16, that number was 308 cases, which was 1.7%.
“So you can see that the cases have increased by threefold since just about a month ago,” he said. “That's quite astounding.”
In St. Francois County, it’s 6.3% of the population; in Perry, it’s 6.6%; in Jefferson, it’s 4.2%; and in St. Louis, it’s 4.3%, according to Bosner.
He also said his hospital is having a difficult time transferring patients when they have significant complications of COVID to their neighboring hospitals. Those that they have relationships with in St. Louis, in Jefferson County, and in Cape Girardeau County, he said, are ravaged with the disease.
“So this is becoming a much more serious problem, especially for our critically ill patients,” Bosner said. “So the take home message is that this is a serious problem, which is getting more and more complicated and serious as time goes on.”
He said this week’s vaccine news is encouraging and he hopes a vaccine will be available for the general public by spring. But until then, masks and social distancing.
Board Treasurer Carl Kinsky said this pandemic has him thinking about Veterans Day celebrations last week.
“Right now, we need to ask all Americans to stand together against this disease the same way as the veterans stood for us in times of conflict,” he explained. “I believe that it's our patriotic duty to wear a mask.
"Now, I want to say the word that nobody wants to mention: mandates. The key thing is to get us to wear masks. If we will wear masks because it's our patriotic duty, then there won't be a need for a mandate.”
They have discussed a mandate, Kinsky said, but they have also discussed if it will actually get more people to wear them and the problem of enforcing it. He said it also might not be as effective if other surrounding counties don’t have one, too.
“I think people are starting to realize that it is their duty to themselves and to their neighbors (to wear a mask),” he said. “I think that this is an issue that the board is going to have to address in the next couple days, or maybe if we're lucky, in the next week.”
Madison County Health Department Administrator Becky Hunt will conduct a Facebook Live update about COVID-19 at 6 p.m. on Thursday.
Questions can be posted ahead of time on Facebook or through a phone call to 573-783-2747 Ext 418.
The Iron County Health Department reported 13 new cases on Wednesday, bringing the county’s total to 443 cases and 64 active cases.
Nikki Overfelt-Chifalu is a reporter for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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