Cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in the area and St. Francois County Health Center Director Amber Elliott says she is starting to feel a little like a broken record.
The measures residents need to be taking, she said, haven’t changed.
“The best things that we can do have already really been laid out at this time,” Elliott said on Thursday during an update on Facebook Live. “And that is social distancing, wearing masks in public places where we can’t social distance or keep that 6-feet distance -- especially indoors -- hand washing, good hygienic practices, disinfecting surfaces and then staying home when we're sick.”
The health center reported eight new cases on Thursday, bringing the county’s total to 281. There are 54 active cases, 18 of which are associated with the two Department of Corrections outbreaks. Of the 281 total cases, 150 are tied to the outbreaks.
“We are seeing an increase in cases and I think we really need to work to take these (measures) seriously and work together as a community to try to prevent as much as we can the spread of disease in the community,” Elliott added.
Six cases have had to be hospitalized over the past couple of weeks, but Elliott said hospital capacity is still good.
Over the last month, the county is seeing a 10% positivity rate, according to Elliott. This isn’t high enough though to put St. Francois County on Missouri’s top 10 counties list.
“However, I was looking at one of our CDC reports and we are listed as a county with high incidents because of the number of cases that have been reported over the last two weeks,” she said.
Missouri was named a “red zone” state in a federal report this week. Those 21 states are reporting more than 100 new cases per 100,000 people.
Madison and Iron County Health Departments reported new cases on Thursday. Madison County now has 19 total cases and one active. Iron County has 10 cases and seven active.
During her update on Facebook, Elliott preached a message of grace and compassion for non-mask wearers, public health nurses and all fellow residents.
The health center still recommends wearing masks when out in public even though it’s a highly politicized issue, she said.
“But again, I just want to express that the health center is a nonpartisan entity,” Elliott said, “and so our interest is not political. It is in the interest of the community, keeping people safe and well.”
Residents need to remember that is a huge cultural shift for Americans, she added.
“As much as we are encouraging masks where people cannot social distance, we want to remember that we need to give grace in encouraging people rather than shaming people because I really don't think that is going to help us in getting people comfortable with wearing masks,” Elliott explained.
She also asked residents to be kind to the health center nurses who are doing disease investigation and contract tracing.
“Please be patient with them and treat them with respect,” Elliott said. “I think we want to treat others as we would want to be treated. And it's getting increasingly more difficult to do these investigations because people are not wanting to be cooperative.”
The health center will not be offering nursing services on Thursdays until further notice, she said, so the nurses can take that day to focus solely on virus investigations.
Elliott emphasized that working together as a community is the way to turn things around.
“We appreciate you all in the community and things that you're doing to try to help protect your fellow citizens, your neighbors, your loved ones, that type of thing,” she said. “And again, I would just ask that you exercise grace and compassion and caring for others.”
Nikki Overfelt is a reporter for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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