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Health officials: College students driving Greene County case count, no bar regulations planned

Published: Sep. 4, 2020 at 8:27 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Testing in Greene County reveals 1,781 active cases across the county of nearly 300,000 residents. Some worry the holiday weekend will mean more cases. The health department is focusing on 18- to 22-year olds.

Springfield-Greene County Health Director Clay Goddard said positive results in that age group have remained stable from last week to this week, but he’s not convinced that’ll last. He wants college-aged individuals to pay attention and participate with personal responsibility.

“That age group tends to be little more... risk takers, often,” Goddard said in a briefing.

Goddard said he admits, when he was 18, he didn’t pay much attention to public health warnings. However, he’s hoping college students in Springfield will, since their age group is driving the case count in Greene County.

“Those kids don’t live on an island at MSU,” he said. “They’re going out to restaurants. We worry that they would infect coworkers who are at risk. They could go home this weekend and expose their parents or grandparents. We need to realize there are consequences beyond our personal health.”

Missouri Governor Mike Parson announced this week more than 7,000 college students have tested positive for COVID-19 across the state. Goddard said he believes some out-of-town students might’ve been carrying the virus when they returned to Springfield, fueling the spread without even knowing it.

“I don’t think a lot of it is happening on campus. I think it’s after-hour events where people are congregating,” he said.

Goddard said only about 1%of the exposure rate is happening at bars and nightclubs. He said Springfield police are doing checks at those businesses to enforce masking and capacity ordinances.

“The kids are getting a drink and taking the mask off and they use the drink as a crutch to not dawn the mask again. They’re not maintaining physical distancing,” Goddard said.

While cities across the county are putting regulations on restaurants and bars for that reason, Goddard said the data does not show that’s necessary in Springfield yet.

“Disease spread is driven mostly by human behaviors,” he said. “We can regulate all we want but until we adopt the appropriate behaviors, you’re still going to have disease transmission in the community.”

Goddard said, right now, behave as if everyone you come in contact with could be carrying the virus. He said this will be something we’re dealing with through the fall.

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