Active COVID-19 cases in Phelps County continue to rise quickly and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) has announced the first case of COVID-19 caused by the Omicron variant.
“Missouri just announced the first case of COVID-19 caused by the Omicron Variant. The presumed positive sample originated from a St. Louis city resident who has domestic travel history,” the Missouri DHSS said in a statement issued on Friday. “The results are currently awaiting confirmation by the CDC. Everyone 5 years and older is highly encouraged to protect themselves from COVID-19 by getting fully vaccinated (and boosted if age 18 and older).
“Although there is much we still need to learn about this new variant, we do know the best tool currently available to protect ourselves from COVID-19 is personal prevention. I urge Missourians to seek information on the Omicron variant from DHSS and trusted medical sources as opposed to social media,” Donald Kauerauf, DHSS Director, said. “We also encourage Missourians to remain vigilant in protecting themselves and staying informed this holiday season as the new variant is investigated further.”
DHSS stated the Omicron variant has mutated several times in ways that are causing concern by public health experts and has been identified in several countries, including the United States. There are still questions, however, about the transmissibility, disease severity, and the degree to which vaccines and therapies protect against the new variant, DHSS said.
Phelps County is currently seeing a significant increase in active COVID-19 cases since the summer spike lowered. Active cases jumped from 185 on November 29 to 238 on December 2, only a few days later. On Monday, December 6, active cases were at 246.
The health department reported there have been 6,371 positive PCR tests and 1,535 antigen tests performed by the health department and 7,465 have been released from isolation. There have been 195 deaths attributed to COVID-19 reported, two added since December 2.
The number of county residents receiving vaccinations is now at 46.6 percent of the total population having initiated vaccinations and 40.6 percent having completed the vaccination process.
Maries County has held steady in its cases in recent weeks, now at 29 active cases being reported. There have been 1,098 positive PCR tests and 205 positive antigen tests, with 23 deaths related to COVID-19 being reported. Vaccinations in Maries County are currently 39.8 percent of the total population having initiated the vaccination process and 35.5 percent having completed the process.
DHSS and the Phelps-Maries County Health Department are encouraging all unvaccinated in the community to get vaccinated or to take personal steps in helping keep the spread of the virus low. 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 Phelps-Maries County Health Department offer Pfizer for those 12 years and older, Pfizer to those ages five through 11, and Johnson and Johnson for those 18 and older. Parents or legal guardians must be present and sign a consent form for anyone under 18 years old.
Anyone with symptoms is strongly encouraged to self-quarantine and get a rapid test. 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, maintain distance from others, avoid large gatherings and stay home if you are sick.
Vaccination sites can also be found on the Phelps-Maries Count Health Department Facebook page for a full list of where to get vaccinated locally.