By Lori Moots-Clair, Knox County Health Department Administrator
Coronavirus is still heavily impacting the country and most notably Missouri. On Sunday there were 965 cases and 14 deaths in Missouri, the largest hot spots being St. Louis County, Kansas City, and Springfield area. In addition, there are reported cases out of Adams County, Illinois, and some over our Iowa border. Although no positive cases have been identified in Knox County, they are beginning to be identified in the rural counties around us. As stated in our social media posts last week, we encourage county residents not to become complacent and treat this virus as if it is here.
To date, we know of no known state laboratory tests for Knox County residents, but we have followed up on 5 private tests that have all came back negative, and we have asked that 12 individuals self-quarantine and monitor. We are spending hours a day talking with individuals who have a concern, we are talking with individuals who have traveled and returned or know of someone who has traveled and returned. This virus is affecting us at every level here in Knox County.
There are many projections for the impact this virus could take locally. It is projected that the State of Missouri will peak with cases on or near April 20, 2020; and this is given we continue our physical distancing campaigns and thoughtful common-sense approaches. As your local county health officer, it has been and remains my thought that we are 8-10 days behind our counterparts across the state, mostly due to our rural status—and willingness to stop as much travel as possible. Information varies greatly and changes daily, but the measures taken today are meant to keep local critical cases to the lowest projections of 5-6, versus the high projects of 43-44.
What are the steps we are taking today? There is a current order in place to suspend school, eliminate dine-in restaurant service, and prevent social/public gatherings of 10 or more through April 6, 2020. The state has stepped in to mandate there can be no disruption of farm to table services, which locally would include our farmers and their path to sale and production.. On Friday we will revisit the April 6, 2020 order, and I fully expect to see it remain in place for a minimum of two more weeks—particularly given the nation just declared the extension of their national order until April 30, 2020.
We have received many calls over the last week with citizen concern about individuals not following the current order. We do know that local law enforcement is engaged and have been verbally warning those not in compliance. With regard to calls the health department receives about noncompliance, it is like all other complaints filed, you have to put your name with the complaint or we recommend you call 911 and ask for law enforcement during the time of the violation. We cannot work backward on social gatherings, eat-in dining, etc.; the violation has to be written at the time.
Like most of you, I got out and walked or drove around town this past weekend. And I was taken somewhat back by the number of young people I saw out walking around town (most not in groups of more than 10), but with multiple households together and within 6ft of each other, in addition, I saw gatherings at multiple parks.
As adults, it is imperative that we impress upon our kids that if they are going household to household, outside or inside, and breaking the minimum 6ft rule, the orders in place will not do their job.
Another concern we are trying to make the public aware of deals with the return of residents to the county after winter trips; and hunters coming to town for turkey season or respite from urban hotspots. If you have friends or neighbors that are returning home from the winter, make sure their homes are set up for a 14-day quarantine (ex. Food, utilities, etc.), and ask them to check in with us when they arrive.
If you have friends, family or neighbors considering coming to Knox County for hunting season or to get away from the problems seen in the urban area right now, we’d ask that you discourage them. When stay at home orders are issued in other counties and states and individuals choose to leave and come to our rural area, we are defeating the purpose of the orders. These individuals could be unknowingly carrying the virus. Many individuals own property/homes in both our county and other counties or states, and we know legally there is no disrupting where they choose to be; however, we do ask that they follow quarantine advise and not expose any other residents during that period of time. And if they can postpone relocating until this situation retreats, it would be better for all involved.
For your sake and the county’s sake, hold on Knox County. I know that the mental toll this is taking is hard—reach out to your family and friends through technology, go outside and walk with your immediate family, but do not mix and mingle with other households. This is going to go away much quicker if we all comply with the guidance put forth by leading health experts across our nation.
Call the local health department with any questions you have. And BE WELL KNOX COUNTY.