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Family traveling to Ozarks from San Diego speaks out as counties see record rates in COVID-19 cases

Published: Jul. 16, 2021 at 5:55 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 16, 2021 at 7:12 PM CDT
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WEST PLAINS, Mo. (KY3) - COVID-19 positivity rates in Howell County are an all-time high, according to officials at Ozarks Healthcare. Missouri’s latest COVID-19 “hot spot” could make some tourists think twice about visiting the Ozarks.

Jesse Ferguson, 49, brought his family to the Ozarks from San Diego, to visit relatives and do some sightseeing. Coming from a city where the vaccination rate is more than 70%, he said he has a hard time comprehending why the rate is below 20% in Howell County.

“I don’t know, it doesn’t really make sense to me,” said Ferguson.

The entire Ferguson family is fully vaccinated, except for nine-year-old Eva. Her dad said she’ll get her shot as soon as it’s allowed. Ferguson said they had some concerns about visiting the Ozarks, but they’ve tried to be cautious.

“We mostly stayed away from crowds,” he said. “So, West Plains, not very worried about it. I’d say the riskiest thing we did was we went to Silver Dollar City, in Branson. That made us nervous, standing in line with all of those people.”

Dr. Priscilla Frase, M.D. is the Chief Medical Information Officer at Ozarks Healthcare in West Plains. She said it’s disheartening to see another surge in cases.

“When the vaccines came out, we were all hopeful that this would all go away,” said Dr. Frase. “A few months ago, it really seemed like it was. I recently got a break, I got to take a vacation, much needed after the last year. When I came back from vacation, the zero to two cases per day number was 10, and then the following Monday it was 18, and a night where everybody coming into the ER had COVID.” She added, shaking her head, “Didn’t expect to see that again.”

Dr. Frase says the average age of new COVID-19 patients is dropping. She’s treated several serious cases in patients 20-30 years old. Some of the patients had to go home with oxygen tanks, and it’s the first time she’s seen that happen.

Frase said people who don’t think they need or want a vaccination should consider the greater good of the community. And she’s frustrated by the amount of incorrect information being spread about the vaccines.

“I was not a social media person before COVID,” said Frase. “But I had to join social media just to keep up with the misinformation because I couldn’t believe all the things people were asking me about COVID in general.”

She stressed the need for the public to rely on reliable sources for information. Frase also stressed the need for more people to get vaccinated.

“Some people are worried about friends or family finding out they got vaccinated,” she said. “We want people to know that we will protect their privacy.”

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