An outbreak of COVID-19 was reported at the Missouri Veterans Home-St. James over the weekend. Jamie Melchert, communications director for the Missouri Veterans Commission stated steps are in place to keep residents and staff safe as the facility deals with the outbreak.
“We have had some veterans and staff test positive at the St. James facility. Across our system of seven veteran’s homes, there have been 13,000 tests of staff and residents to date,” Melchert said. So far, 14 veterans and 10 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 and the process to keep others safe has been implemented.
“For our veterans, we have set up isolation areas. That way they can stay in the veteran’s home without endangering others,” Melchert said. “If staff test positive, they are quarantined, obviously, and stay in their households until they pass several tests.”
He added testing is done at the facility twice weekly, as has been done since March when the facility closed to all but employees and visitations ceased.
“We also are providing additional PPE—Personal Protective Equipment—protective gear and screening equipment,” he said. “We spent a lot of time and effort to establish these isolation areas and we’ve got all of these systems in place, and have had them in place since March.”
Melchert added the Missouri Veterans Home is following all state and local health guidelines and has been working with the Phelps/Maries County Health Department through this outbreak as well.
“We coordinate with the county health department as well as the state health department and CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention),” Melchert said. He added every safety precaution has been implemented to keep veterans and staff safe while the facility deals with the outbreak, including additional cleaning and monitoring of those at the facility.
Phelps County continues to see a rise in the number of positive COVID-19 cases and the Phelps/Maries County Health Department has begun using a secure, public health monitoring system to assist with contact tracing. “As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, the number of contacts being monitored in quarantine continue to grow at an even more rapid pace. The numbers will quickly surpass our capability to maintain daily contacts with each individual at this rate,” the department said. To aid, the department will implement the public health monitoring system, which allows health officials better access to contacting those affected.
“The system will allow public health professionals to email or text cases and/or contacts an individualized link allowing for self-reporting of symptoms. This will allow public health to focus efforts on individuals that are reporting new or worsening symptoms. This system will not take the place of public health professionals, but instead will be another tool available to streamline mitigation and response to COVID-19 in our community,” the department said.
The program does not have a location tracking feature and all data is encrypted and in compliance with HIPAA laws. The system asks users to identify which symptoms they are experiencing, with a list provided, allowing the individual to provide a self-report of their issue.
As of Monday, September 14, there were 81 active cases in Phelps County, down from 91 the week prior, along with 357 confirmed total cases, a jump of 41 from the week before. Of the confirmed area cases, 310 have been released from isolation and 10 from the hospital. There are currently no current cases requiring hospitalization. There have also been 7,465 negative tests so far in Phelps County.
Maries County currently has seven active cases of COVID-19, with 67 confirmed cases in the county, up only one from the week prior (51). There have been 35 released from isolation of those confirmed and five have been released from the hospital. There have been 931 negative tests in Maries County.
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…
According to the state dashboard, there have been 353 confirmed positive cases. The discrepancy could be associated with cases not yet reported to the state, false positives which have been changed, or errors in reporting. According to the dashboard, there has been 115 new cases reported in Phelps County over the past 14 days. Phelps County has seen a 22 percent increase in cases over the past seven days and is at 726.55 in cases per 100,000 population.
Missouri as a state has a total of 104,079 confirmed cases as of Tuesday morning, with 1,332 new confirmed cases in the last 24 hours. The seven-day positive percent PCR tests are at 12 percent and there have been 1,714 confirmed deaths in the state associated with COVID-19.
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.