The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) on Monday provided a situational summary regarding the increases in COVID-19 cases across Missouri, marking Phelps County, along with Laclede and Pulaski Counties, as COVID-19 hotspots.
“In recent weeks, broad regions of Missouri, including north central and southwest Missouri, have experienced a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, the so-called Delta variant, which spreads more easily and poses higher risk of hospitalization that prior strains, is believed to be contributing to this increase,” DHSS said on Monday. “The DHSS is creating hotspot advisories in partnership with the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry for counties across the state to give insight to community leaders to help overcome vaccine hesitancy and encourage community members getting vaccinated. Getting vaccinated is the best way to control the spread of this disease.”
Phelps County currently has a completed vaccination rate of 31.3 percent, below the state rate of 40.2 percent, according to DHSS. Experts say 70 to 80 percent of the public, depending on the variant, need to be vaccinated for the best chance to minimize the spread within the community.
Active COVID-19 cases continue to climb during this recent spike, which began just a few weeks ago. On Monday, the Phelps-Maries County Health Department reported 285 active COVID-19 cases, with 4,224 positive PCR tests, 1,186 positive antigen tests, 4,975 released from isolation, and 150 deaths attributed to COVID-19 since recording began.
Phelps Health continues to see rising numbers of COVID-19 patients being accepted to the hospital. As of Friday, July 16, there were 26 COVID-19 patients in the hospital. Five of the 26 were in the Intensive Care Unit. Three of the 26 required a ventilator.
The health department is also seeing patients of all age groups. Those ages 0 to 19 account for 20 percent of active cases, 41 percent are between 20 and 39, 26 percent are between 40 and 59, and 13 percent are in patients 60 and older. The average age of total active cases is 36.2 percent. Many of the new cases are associated with workplaces, long-term facilities, church gatherings, and family gatherings, the health department reported earlier this month. Both the Alpha and Delta variants have been found in Phelps county.
DHSS is asking those in the community to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Vaccinations are very affective, even against the new variants. There is no cost for a COVID-19 vaccine, even for those uninsured. Fully vaccinated individuals are less likely to miss work, school, or social functions due to illness and fully vaccinated individuals are not asked to quarantine whenever exposed to COVID-19 and not symptomatic.
The goal is to get as many people vaccinated as possible to help slow the spread of the virus in these communities. Vaccinations help prevent or reduce outbreaks that create high absenteeism in businesses and community functions as well as minimizes the hospital resources required when dealing with a high volume of COVID-19 patients.
Those experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and meet the following criteria are encouraged to seek PCR testing instead of rapid testing:
• Fully vaccinated against COVID-19
• Have had a prior confirmed or probable case of COVID-19
• Have travelled internationally
• Have been in direct contact with anyone that has travelled internationally.
Free PCR testing is available for individuals three and older with no insurance at Walgreens and CVS. PCR results typically only take a day or two and those who are getting tested are asked to isolate at home while awaiting test results.
Business owners who have several employees interested in getting a vaccine, the health department may be able to come to the business to save time and resources. COVID-19 vaccines are widely available in the area and can be found at www.MOStopsCovid.com or www.VaccineFinder.com.
The health department urges those not vaccinated to get the vaccine, wear a mask around others if not fully vaccinated, wash your hands often, avoid large gatherings and stay home if you are sick. Vaccination sites can also be found on the Phelps-Maries County Health Department Facebook page for a full list of where to get vaccinated locally.