Could A Covid Surge Cause Another County Lockdown?

Joyce Coates
County Reporter
Benton County Health Department Administrator, Linda Viebrock said COVID-19 Orders issued previously are no longer in effect. The last Order, in effect for the county from May 4 through 31, 2020, is superseded by “Recommendations” that remain essential to minimizing spread of the virus. 
• Wear masks in public settings; 
• Wash hands frequently; 
• Maintain 6-foot social distancing, unless for short periods of time it is unreasonable to do so because of the nature of one’s work or business. 
Viebrock confirmed that as of Tuesday, July 7, a total of 20 Benton County residents have tested positive. To date, from the period beginning March 30, 2020, sixteen have been released. Four “active” cases represent people who are in quarantine at home, either for the standard 14 days or until they are fever-free for 72 consecutive hours. None have been hospitalized.
At the State level, Governor Mike Parson held a press briefing at the Capitol on Monday that included updates on COVID-19 related issues, accompanied by Dr. Margie Vandeven, commissioner of Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and Dr. Randall Williams, director of Department of Health and Senior Services.
Governor Parson, rather than focus on COVID-19 statistics said, “This state has to keep moving forward,” referring to Missouri’s economic reopening that began on May 4. “We have to keep moving forward and keep looking out for each other,” he added.
Dr. Williams acknowledged that in certain areas of the state the number of positives has increased. He said the situation “is stable;” that the increases are not overwhelming. He noted that testing continues in counties to identify positives as soon as possible, and anyone who desires to be tested can be.
Parson said he and Dr. Vandeven were traveling to Washington, D.C. on July 7 to participate in discussions about safely reopening schools. Asked why he had not issued a mask requirement for all state schools, he said that decision is better left to local school control where the best information is available about their situations and needs.
Dr. Vandeven summarized the nearly $55M CARES Act funds allocated for Missouri’s K-12 schools. School districts can apply for funds to cover expenses for expanding online access, for new Wi-Fi connections, devices, transportation costs of delivering meals, for PPE, cleaning/sanitizing; and for tests of students to gauge gain or loss of learning during the shutdown. 
Governor Parson took time to mention two Kansas City police officers shot during weekend protests whom he had visited in the hospital, and to whom, with their families, he offered his support. “It’s time to stand up in support of law enforcement,” he said, and to “give them the tools they need to fight violent crimes.”   
“We are in trouble,” he said, “if we do not separate the difference between peaceful protesters and criminals.” Parson signed into law, on July 6, Senate Bill 600 that criminalizes conspiracy by two or more persons to commit violent crimes, among other reforms. 
Next, reporters at the briefing asked Dr. Williams if there were plans for a new shut-down because of increasing numbers of COVID-19 positives. He replied there were none insofar as a statewide closure. Williams said testing results from most counties so far show about one percent positives, although a little higher in some areas; testing this week takes place in Cole and Butler Counties.
Locally, Warsaw Mayor Simons said there are no changes to the reopening policy, “The City will follow the Governor’s guidelines.” 
Likewise, from county commissioners, yet Presiding Commissioner, Steve Daleske, added that “People should not let their guards down. Considering the few new cases, it is important to continue with social distancing, to use personal protective masks and gloves, and keep up regular hand-washing.”
Meanwhile, Linda Viebrock said new training sessions funded by CARES Act began July 7 at the health department in Warsaw that should enable staff there to expand COVID-19 related services. She looks forward to sharing information with the public that she believes will be available soon.