The Phelps/Maries Health Department reported two deaths associated with COVID-19 over the past week in Phelps County. COVID-19 infections continue to affect residents in the county and the health department urges caution.
On Friday, the health department confirmed the first reported death associated with coronavirus. “Our greatest sympathy goes out to the family during their time of sorrow. The deceased was in their 70s, did have underlying health conditions, and passed away in their home. Postmortem testing determined the individual to be positive for COVID-19 at the time of their death. A household member also tested positive for COVID-19 and is currently hospitalized,” the department said in a statement.
“The health department is working closely with the family to complete the case investigation and contact tracing. If any direct contacts are identified, health department staff will reach out to those individuals directly,” the department said.
On Monday, the department announced the second county death associated with the virus, reporting the individual was a female in her 80s. “It is with great sadness that we announce a second COVID-19 associated death for Phelps County. Our condolences to the family during their time of loss,” the department said.
The department also reported growing challenges in case investigation and contact tracing and requests community assistance and patience as staff do their job to identify cases. “The success of a COVID-19 case investigation and contact tracing program hinges on a positive case’s level of participation. Timely communication with the positive individual is essential to our case investigation and contact tracing efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 to our families, friends, and community,” The department said. “The majority of our positive cases and contacts have been willing to assist in our efforts with prompt, honest, and consistent communication, and for this we are very appreciative.”
However, there has also been an increase in difficulties in these efforts. “Unfortunately, health department staff are encountering challenges and pushback. Our phone calls are being ignored and, in some instances, blocked entirely, we are consistently cursed at, and even more alarming we are being threatened. We understand the process is overwhelming and seems intrusive, but we assure you that we take the utmost care in protecting your personal health information,” the department said.
They request help from the community during this time to help make the process as smooth as possible. “First and foremost, it is crucial that if you are tested positive for COVID-19 that you provide up-to-date contact information so that health department staff can promptly begin case investigation and contact tracing,” it said. “Providing inaccurate contact information in an attempt to elude the health department significantly slows the case investigation and our ability to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and puts substantial risk on our vulnerable community.”
The health department requests anyone who has been contacted by the department to return phone calls as soon as possible. “The timelier an investigation is initiated, the more accurate the information obtained. The more time lapses, the more information is inadvertently missed or forgotten,” the department said. There have been instances where a contact was not named by a positive case and later identified after numerous other exposures which could have been limited if the department knew of the person sooner.
“An alarming concern is the number of contacts that are being associated with each positive case. It is not unusual to have double digit contacts for each positive case. These efforts are stretching thin public health resourced not only in our area, but throughout the state,” the department said.
It also stressed the need for a positive case to quarantine and not go to work, places of public accommodation, not to send children under quarantine to daycare or school, and to truly self-isolate. The department also thanked those who have been “doing their part” in limiting the spread of COVID-19 and working with the department as they contact trace.
“It is best to assume that every location you visit is a location of potential exposure and take the appropriate precautions to protect yourself, your family, and your community. It is critical that each and every one of us continues to practice preventative measures to help keep the spread of communicable diseases to a minimum. It is the utmost importance that any individual experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 isolate from others,” the department said.
As of Monday, there are currently 38 active cases in Phelps County, along with 169 confirmed total cases. Of the confirmed area cases, 129 have been released from isolation and six from the hospital. Two others are still hospitalized as of Monday afternoon. The number of active cases is down this week, from 42 last Monday.
Maries County currently has six cases of positive COVID-19, with 36 confirmed cases in the county, up from 31 last Monday. There have been 30 released from isolation of those confirmed and three were released after hospitalization. One other is still hospitalized.
To check current information, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) COVID dashboard is updated daily at 2 p.m. The link to that website is: http://mophep.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html…
With each case, the health department works with the DHSS to investigate to identify any individual that may have come in close contact with the positive individual to monitor them for symptoms and assist in the containment of the virus. Any close contacts identified by a positive case within the county will be contacted privately by the health department.
Primary symptoms of COVID-19 include a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher, cough, and shortness of breath. Other possible symptoms include body aches, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of taste or smell. The health department reported there are a wide range of symptoms ranging from mild to severe illness, with some not experiencing any symptoms at all during their illness.
The health department asks that anyone who develops symptoms contact their physician and seek testing and to isolate themselves until testing results are known.
For general information and questions regarding the Coronavirus, contact the Missouri DHSS hotline at 877-435-8411. The Phelps-Maries County Health Department can be reached by calling 573-458-6010. The department requests residents not contact them via Facebook as there are too many comment made and someone could be missed.
The health department urges the public to take appropriate precautions, including social distancing, limiting in-person interactions, avoiding contact with people who are sick, covering coughs and sneezes, proper handwashing, cleaning frequently used surfaces, and staying home when sick, to help contain he spread of COVID-19.