If you follow the weekly updates provided by the Crawford and Phelps counties health departments that regularly appear in our three newspapers, or keep track of cases on the Missouri COVID Dashboard, then one thing is for certain—we are headed in the wrong direction in our local efforts to combat the virus.
In August alone, Crawford County reported 147 news cases. That was after starting the month with just 47 cases since the pandemic began. As of Monday, the county had reported 52 new cases in just one week.
And while the rate of infection isn’t quite as bad in Phelps County due to its higher population, cases there also continue to climb. On Monday, the county reported 60 active COVID-19 cases and 223 total. One week earlier, it had 38 active and 169 total cases.
If you are unaware, health officials in Phelps County have become so concerned about the recent rise in cases that Phelps Health closed most visitations for patients at its hospital in Rolla and the Phelps/Maries County Health Department has closed its lobby to visitors.
Just a week into the new school year, we’ve already had cases at all three Phelps County Schools—St. James, Rolla, and Newburg—and a case at Cuba that led to an entire classroom being quarantined. Sporting events are also being canceled, with Cuba postponing its first three softball games.
We find ourselves in a situation where everyone—understandably—wants things to get back to normal, but most of us aren’t willing to make a few sacrifices to make sure that happens. Until we change that attitude, things will likely get worse.
If we want our kids to stay in school and we want our senior athletes to be able to play their final season of high school sports, then we are all going to have to work harder to limit our exposure to large crowds of people, maintain socially distant as much as possible when we are in public, and wear a mask—not just for your own protection, but for the protection of your fellow citizens.
Along those lines, kudos to the Steelville Chamber of Commerce, which recently announced it was canceling all of its normal Harvest Festival activities. It was a tough choice, but one that had to be made. Having a parade or other large gatherings right now is simply not the right thing to do.
We can slow down this virus, but we must be committed to doing so.