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SFC cases grow to 18; Ste. Gen County reports first death
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SFC cases grow to 18; Ste. Gen County reports first death

Health Center prepares for coronavirus

The St. Francois County Health Center has added zip codes to its data for confirmed COVID-19 cases, Director Amber Elliott announced on Monday.

There are now 18 confirmed cases of the virus in St. Francois County residents. Nine of those cases are in the zip code of 63640; four are in 63601, four are in 63628, and one is in 63036.

“We all need to be cautious, regardless of what zip code,” Elliott added. “Our cases are not all in one zip code. We all need to be taking the measures set forth by the state, by the CDC.

"We shouldn’t take (it) lightly if there’s not a case in our zip code ... that that means that everything’s safe and sound and social distancing doesn’t matter ... because it still does.”

Nine of the cases did have contact with another positive case. Three of the cases have no known contact, and six of the cases are still under investigation.

The first COVID-19 related death in the county was announced on Friday.

The Ste. Genevieve County Health Department announced on Monday that a senior resident passed away from medical conditions complicated by the virus. Ste. Genevieve County has six confirmed cases.

"We extend our heartfelt condolences to the family," the health department stated in its post. "The family has been very cooperative in following all recommendations for quarantine."

This weekend, the U.S. Surgeon General said this could be a bad week for America in its fight against the virus. As for locally, Elliott said, it’s hard to tell what this week will hold.

“We’ve been expecting to see more cases, so that wouldn’t be a surprise,” Elliott said. “But I know that other places are seeing larger surges than necessarily here in St. Francois County. But we’re prepared for that. The hospital is prepared for that. So we’re ready if that happens.”

When asked what she thinks about the reported projections that virus cases could peak in Missouri in mid-May, Elliott said it’s too early to tell. Just a couple of weeks ago, she said, the thought was it could be mid- to late-April.

“As far as our local data, we’re dealing with fairly small numbers yet, so it’s hard to get a good grasp on what kind of transmission we’re seeing here in our jurisdiction,” Elliott said. “It’s very possible that we’re going to see continued transmission into May, but we are going to have to keep doing good disease surveillance and tracking.”

This is the first week that both the state and county stay-at-home orders are in effect. Elliott said the orders are strikingly similar. But they are seeking clarification on some guidance for non-essential businesses.

The county order has an innovation clause in it, Elliott said, to allow small businesses to still operate as long as they are practicing the social distancing guidelines. The state has a similar clause, but Elliott said it could be a little stricter.

“We want to make sure we are implementing the order as it was intended,” Elliott said.

As far as enforcing the orders, Elliott said, members of the environmental health department at the health center are taking calls about residents’ complaints and concerns and following up with the calls.

This is also the week of Easter, and Elliott said the health center is on board with churches who want to gather together for a drive-in or drive-up service, as long social distancing is maintained. People must stay in their vehicles and the vehicles must be spaced out accordingly.

“Certainly we understand that this is an important time to worship and to celebrate and we want people to do that,” Elliott said, “but to also do that safely.”

The health center is also reminding residents that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures may be difficult to maintain.

According to the CDC, recent studies show a significant portion of persons with coronavirus do not exhibit symptoms, and that even those who develop symptoms can transmit the virus prior to the onset of symptoms.

“The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators,” the health center said. “Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders.”

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

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