Springfield city leaders consider next steps in COVID-19 Road to Recovery plan

Published: Mar. 9, 2021 at 1:54 PM CST|Updated: Mar. 9, 2021 at 6:10 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Nearly one year since the first COVID-19 case in Greene County, Springfield City Council began discussions of what comes next in the Road to Recovery.

With case counts trending downward, hospitalizations decreasing and vaccination rates increasing, the Springfield-Greene County Health Department proposed what future phases of the city’s Road to Recovery plan could look like.

“We have reached a point where the end is in sight, where we can start to relax and breathe a sigh of relief—but while we’re close, we still have more of this race to run,” said Acting Director of Health Katie Towns. “We have to take steps cautiously so that we don’t ruin all that we have accomplished to keep our community safe and protect one another. We are nearing this finish line, but we will have to Finish Strong.”

Courtesy: Springfield-Greene County Health Department's
Courtesy: Springfield-Greene County Health Department's(KY3)

The framework for deciding next steps is built off three key indicators:

  • The rolling 7-day average of our COVID-19 case count
  • The number of COVID-19-positive patients hospitalized
  • And the percent of the Greene County population who has been fully vaccinated

These indicators will be evaluated for 28-day timeframes, or two incubation periods.

The Springfield-Greene County Health Department’s COVID-19 dashboard will update to include new dials, so that our community will be able to track where we are within the phases and the progress being made toward the next phase.

Currently, we stand in the red phase. Current restrictions include 50% occupancy limits, required masking and required physical distancing.

If the 7-day rolling average stays below 40 news cases per day, and hospitalizations stay under 50 patients per day, we will have the option to move into the yellow phase.

The yellow phase would remove occupancy restrictions except with mass gatherings of 500 or more people, would recommend physical distancing but would still require masking.

To move on to the green phase, which would remove all mandatory COVID-19 ordinance restrictions, the indicators would have to meet the following thresholds:

  • A 7-day rolling average of under 20 cases per day
  • Under 20 people hospitalized with COVID-19
  • At least 50% of Greene County residents 16 and over fully vaccinated.

This framework is built on recommendations from national experts, local advisors and the capacity we expect to have as a community going forward. This includes guidance from the White House Coronavirus Task Force, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and our local health care partners.

Partners from CoxHealth and Mercy were at the council luncheon to add to the discussion.

“I believe with vaccines we can bring this disease into becoming just really a very, very complicated cold,” Steve Edwards, CoxHealth President/CEO, told the audience. “A cold that will not kill people anymore.”

Edwards pointed out that Cox currently has 24 COVID-19 patients compared to 170 just two months ago. He said Cox has administered 40,000 vaccine doses and had only one severe reaction from a woman who had 10 known allergies and was released after a couple of hours in the hospital.

“I believe it’s now a race of the vaccine versus the variant and until we get enough vaccine in the mask is the way that will keep us safe,” he said of continuing the mask mandate until the Green Phase begins, possibly by this summer depending on the numbers. “We are at the 20 yard line with a first down. It’s not a time to fumble. It’s not a time to throw an interception. We can score.”

“There is an end in sight and certainly a light at the end of the tunnel,” added Brent Hubbard, Mercy President/COO.

Hubbard said Mercy currently has 21 COVID-19 patients and has administered 25,000 doses. Mercy gets 5,700 does every other week, the same as Cox, but must share its allotment with CMH and Freeman Hospital.

Hubbard also remained optimistic while expressing the need to remain vigilant.

“There is a fourth surge expected in the U.S. starting in April,” he said. “We can stave that off here in southwest Missouri with this plan. It’s like running in a marathon and getting to the final 100 yards and then just sitting down and quitting. That’s if we do away with the ordinances or not following the plan that’s been presented. None of us want to do that and I just highly encourage us to fight this disease in a very methodical fashion. We can see the finish line.”

Edwards thanked the council for its previous work to fight the pandemic including the decision last July to mandate mask-wearing, a highly controversial and political line-in-the-sand issue.

“I am very proud of this community,” he said. “As you walk around this community you see enormously improved mask compliance. I’m proud of our citizens and I’m especially proud of each of you who never asked for this role and were forced to make such difficult decisions that were not always met with the enthusiasm you would hope for and decisions that I think have saved lives.”

To view the PowerPoint presentation shown at Council Lunch, click here.

A recording of the presentation will be posted at https://cityview.springfieldmo.gov/

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