City, health department see overwhelming COVID cases in the area

    The Phelps/Maries County Health Department reported there have been an overwhelming amount of COVID-19 cases in the area recently, with more than 500 active cases in Phelps County alone, including several from a non-school sponsored Rolla High School Homecoming event held at Matt’s Steakhouse on November 7. The city of St. James is encouraging residents to stay home whenever possible and to make plans or reevaluate Thanksgiving gatherings.

    While investigating the homecoming dance exposure, the health department noted multiple positive COVID-19 cases that were in attendance and encourages anyone who was there and those in their households to self-monitor for development of symptoms, limit non-essential activities, and immediately isolate and get tested if symptoms develop.
    The department also reported hospitalized individuals will no longer be reported as “accurate information is no longer possible as residents are being hospitalized at healthcare facilities around the state,” the department said. “As more testing sites become available, we are encountering difficulties obtaining all necessary information to case investigate. More test results are coming in with only the individual’s name and no contact information.”
    St. James City Administrator Jim Fleming said he had been speaking regularly with the health department and urged residents to stay home whenever possible, wear masks when out of the home, practice social distancing, do proper sanitization, and to limit the number of people at gatherings.
    “In the past two weeks, the active cases per day have doubled,” Fleming said. “It is estimated that in two weeks we will see 100 cases per day by (November) 23. The ICU at Phelps Health has already had to divert cases to their overflow wards,” he said. The hospital has plans to expand to more wards as cases increase. Fleming noted staffing those additional wards has become difficult as more cases are worked.
    Fleming said the health department has become overwhelmed with their caseloads and they are having difficulty keeping up, becoming three to four days behind with notifying people they’ve tested positive. “So, if you have been tested, please stay home until you get the results. You may be spreading that virus. And, please, if you have been notified of testing positive, it is now up to the patient to notify all the people you have been in contact with for the past four days. The health department can no longer do the contact tracing,” he said. Close contact is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as someone who has been within six feet of an infected person for more than 15 minutes.
    “The city is strongly suggesting we go back to staying at home. Eliminate gatherings where you cannot maintain a six-foot safe distance in a well-ventilated area,” Fleming said. “It’s serious; it’s here. It’s unfortunate at the holiday season when we want to be with family and friends, we need to find different ways to do that,” he added.
    According to the health department, on November 16 there were 522 active cases in Phelps County, with the total positive test up to 1,442 cases to date. Of the confirmed area cases, 1,200 have been released from isolation. There have been 35 deaths in Phelps County related to COVID-19.
    Maries County currently has 67 active cases of COVID-19, with 365 confirmed total cases in the county. Of the total cases, 332 have been released from isolation. There have been four deaths associated with COVID-19 in Maries County.
    To check current information, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) COVID dashboard is updated daily. The link to that website is:
    According to the state dashboard on Monday, numbers included data reported through November 14. All seven-day metrics are based on the date a test or death occurred and are subject to a three-day delay to ensure data are accurate and complete. As a result, Monday’s numbers were for the date range of November 8 through November 14.
    According to the state dashboard, there have been 1,332 confirmed positive cases in Phelps County. The discrepancy could be associated with cases not yet reported to the state, false positives which have been changed, changes to the new dashboard, or errors in reporting. According to the dashboard, there have been 219 new cases reported in Phelps County over the seven-day date range. Phelps County is at 2,988 in cases per 100,000 population to date.
    Missouri as a state has a total of 248,886 confirmed cases to date as of November 14. The seven-day positive percent PCR tests are at 43.4 percent and there have been 3,453 confirmed deaths in the state associated with COVID-19. Over the seven-day date range, there have been 122,333 new confirmed cases.
    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 that residents not contact them via Facebook as there are too many comments 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 the spread of COVID-19.