Webster, Taney and Greene Counties among state leaders in new COVID-19 cases

Updated: Jun. 14, 2021 at 6:58 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - A look at a Missouri map showing new cases of COVID-19 features several hot spots centered mainly in northern and southern Missouri but the corridor from Branson to Lake of the Ozarks is definitely noticeable as a problem area.

“We do continue to see a steady increase in new cases,” said Dr. Nancy Yoon, the Chief Medical Officer with the Springfield-Greene County Health Department. “There has been a 79 percent increase in the last seven days in Greene County. We have the 11th highest rate in the state for new cases while Taney County is eighth highest and Webster County fifth highest.”

Elsewhere along that corridor Christian County has had a steep trend upward in the last two weeks while Douglas County is dealing with a sudden spike after dipping down for a while. Laclede, Camden and Miller Counties have seen a steady rise over the last 14 days.

By now you’ve probably heard about all the different factors involved in COVID-19′s ability to stick around....variants of all types, young people not getting vaccinated, people not wanting to get immunized for various reasons...and officials say that’s why the increase in new cases all goes back to one core issue.

No new shots in the arms of local residents equals more new cases of COVID-19.

“We have about a 36 percent fully-vaccinated rate and the surrounding counties are a little bit lower than that,” said Brent Hubbard, the President/COO of Mercy.“So as long as we continue to see lower vaccination rates in our communities we will continue to see the spread of the virus.”

“Some of these counties are even less than 30 percent vaccinated so it really goes hand-in-hand,” added Yoon. “We want everyone to know that it is a personal choice but it’s one you can make to protect the health of yourself and the health of your community. But it is a trend that we are seeing in rural areas across the country. There may be a variety of reasons why people are still not sure or have negative opinions about the vaccination. But based on the science and hundreds of millions of people who’ve been vaccinated, it is safe, effective and the most powerful tool we have in combating this disease.”

When asked what would happen if the numbers continue to rise, Yoon explained that health officials are continuing to keep a close eye on two main numbers that could result in a return to the bad ‘ol days.

“If we’re concerned about hospitals not being able to handle all of their patients or if deaths continue to rise, then we will really need to think seriously about should we reinstate or more strongly recommend some of our safety measures,” she said. “The numbers are not trending in the right direction and it’s just a sobering reminder that the pandemic is not behind us. We really do need to learn to live with it and while we don’t want to be overly restrictive, we have to balance the messaging of what works. So even though we sound like a broken record we do know the virus is still here and we want people to be as safe as possible.”

While the hospitals are not yet in danger of being overloaded with patients, Mercy Hospital has opened up its mobile care unit just outside the Emergency Room. The trailer was once used to provide initial care to possible COVID-19 patients but this time around is serving a different purpose, although it is somewhat pandemic-related.

Now the mobile care unit is being used to treat those ER visitors with less serious ailments or injuries, allowing the main ER to be used for more serious cases and COVID-19 patients.

The ER traffic has picked up by about 20 percent with 40 to 60 extra visitors per day in the last several weeks.

“The current hospitalizations were not unexpected for COVID patients,” said Hubbard, who said the 58 current COVID-19 patients at the hospital matches the same projection (50-60) that officials are making for the rest of the summer as well. “But I think what was probably unexpected was all other volumes to be increasing at the same time. We are seeing an increase in patients with chest pains and abdominal pain. With communities opening up people are wanting to be more active so that’s creating an opportunity for more traumatic injuries or other conditions that may require an ER visit. There are also folks probably putting off care and now they’re more sick and more acute than they would have been had they seen the doctor prior to their need to be hospitalized.”

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