Springfield officials give Christmas advice and thoughts on past and current COVID-19 fight

Published: Dec. 15, 2020 at 5:57 PM CST
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With Christmas coming next week and the New Year looming, Springfield health and city officials offered their advice and thoughts Tuesday on the latest developments in the fight against COVID-19.

“I want to take a moment today at the end of calendar year 2020 to congratulate our community for navigating through what is without question the most difficult year in our lifetime,” Springfield Mayor Ken McClure said in his opening comments.

It has been a year most of us will not look back on fondly but at least it ended on a positive note with the arrival of a vaccine to fight the deadly virus.

“This marks a significant turning point in our response to COVID-19,” Springfield-Greene County Health Director Clay Goddard said.

But both Goddard and McClure encouraged the public to “finish strong” and be vigilant because we are still going through the worst times of the pandemic.

“We are quite literally in the middle of the darkest days when it comes to virus exposure, positive cases, hospitalizations and death,” McClure pointed out.

Goddard used another seminal moment in our nation’s history when he spoke of the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 that’s now climbed past 300,000.

“That’s more than the number of American servicemen lost in combat in World War II,” he said. “That’s a real sobering perspective. We lost 291,557 people in battle in World War II and that was in four years of conflict. We’ve been battling COVID-19 for about 11 months.”

Goddard also announced that as expected there was a post-Thanksgiving surge as holiday exposures accounted for about 13 percent of new cases surpassing household and workplace exposures. That’s why there’s even more worry about the Christmas holidays.

“Remember this is an extended period of time,” Goddard explained. “This goes on for a week or week-and-a-half period between Christmas and New Year’s whereas Thanksgiving is simply a long weekend.”

So on its website (health.springfieldmo.gov/celebratesafely) the health department has suggestions for what to do and not do in your holiday activities.

Among those mentioned under “Lower Risk Activities”:

  • Having a small dinner with people who live in your household.
  • Having a virtual dinner and sharing traditional recipes with friends and family.
  • Holiday shopping online rather than in person.
  • Exchanging gifts in person with members of your direct household
  • Opening presents virtually with other family members or friends
  • Watching sports events, parades, and movies from home.
  • Attending church services virtually.
  • Coordinating a virtual visit with Santa for young children.
  • Using non-contact forms of greeting instead of handshakes / hugs.
  • Participating in drive-through holiday displays with members of your household, where you can remain in your vehicle and enjoy the magic of the season from a distance.

Assistant Health Director Katie Towns said the website covers a wide variety of topics “including advice against visiting Santa in a crowded store or caroling as singing can produce respiratory droplets that make COVID-19 more easily spread. We are advising to celebrate at home with the people in your household.”

The latest news briefing comes just a day after the Springfield City Council extended the mask mandate through April 9 and during the briefing McClure was asked about the city’s recent decision to step up enforcement.

“We’ve been in this mode since July,” he said. “The initial (enforcement) efforts were on education, quite properly, making sure that people knew what the requirements were. As we’re now in our fifth month and about to start our sixth month, where there are violations they need to be ticketed. It’s not designed to raise revenue, it’s not designed to go after anybody. It is designed to be safe.”

McClure said several mask mandate-related tickets had been given but didn’t have an exact number. He also said while police would ticket someone if they saw them breaking the law, most of the enforcement would still come from complaints from the general public about seeing the ordinance not being followed.

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