Health Department reacts to new county mask order

    The Phelps/Maries County Health Department is hoping to help individuals and businesses in the community as the Phelps County Commission announced a county wide mask order last week. The health department is given powers of enforcement under the order and it announced how the application and enforcement of the mask order will be conducted in the county.

    “The Phelps-Maries County Health Department’s goal throughout this entire pandemic has been to protect the health and well-being of our entire community,” the department said. “We recognize and appreciate that a vital piece of our community is our business community.”
    The department stated it wanted to help businesses enforce the order and it wants to be an aid for those needing it. “We will continue to be a resource for the community. If you have questions regarding how to protect yourself, your business, or your patrons, we will be available to answer those questions. If you need clarification or desire guidance following a COVID-19 diagnosis or exposure, we will be here to walk you through this stressful, sometimes scary time,” the department said.
    As for enforcement, the department said it would help at the individual level by continuing case investigation and contact tracing to identify positive cases and all close contacts that have the potential of developing COVID-19, further spreading the virus.
    At the business level, it said it would help businesses as they navigate the challenges of COVID-19 and positive cases. “The health department works closely with businesses to help identify employees with significant exposure to positive COVID-19 cases and what steps are necessary to return to normal operations as quickly as possible. Since the start of the pandemic, the vast majority of affected businesses have not been recommended to close. Those few businesses that have opted to close, did so voluntarily in order to identify and implement strategies necessary to combat the spread of COVID-19 within the business,” the department said.
    “There are certain industries/sectors that have been shown to have an enhanced risk of disease transmission. The health department has consistently worked with these industries to implement and modify appropriate mitigation strategies during the course of this pandemic based on their individual needs to decrease the likelihood of wide-spread transmission within their facility,” the department said of industrial areas.
    The department said it is focused on aiding the community rather than taking measures to punish those not complying with the guidelines put forth in the order. “While the ordinance does give the health department more punitive recourse, the primary function of the health department has been and will always be prevention, communication, and education,” it said.
    Residents are encouraged to respect the attempt by the county to keep community members safe even if the individual is not in favor of mask wearing and asks the community to work together to stop the spread of COVID-19 by following mitigation strategies, which have been encouraged since the beginning of the pandemic.
    According to the health department, as of Monday, November 30 there were 536 active cases in Phelps County, with the total positive tests up to 2,028 cases to date.
    Of the confirmed area cases, 1,848 have been released from isolation. There have been 52 deaths in Phelps County associated to COVID-19.
    Maries County currently has 71 active cases of COVID-19, with 459 confirmed total cases in the county. Of the total cases, 426 have been released from isolation. There have been six 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 28. 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 22 through November 28.
    According to the state dashboard, there have been 1,820 confirmed positive cases to date 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 207 new cases reported in Phelps County over the seven-day date range. Phelps County is at 4,083 in cases per 100,000 population to date.
    Missouri as a state has a total of 302,691 confirmed cases to date as of November 28. The seven-day positive percent PCR tests are at 20.5 percent and there have been 4,006 confirmed deaths in the state associated with COVID-19. Over the seven-day date range, there have been 102,707 new confirmed cases.
    With each case, the local 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 test 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.