Health officials have issued a “Hotspot Advisory” for several southwest Missouri counties after COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have surged.
“SOUTHWEST MISSOURI: Counties in your region are experiencing a surge in #COVID19 cases and hospitalizations,” the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services said on Twitter.
The advisory covers Greene, Jasper, McDonald, Newton and Barry counties, Joplin and surrounding areas.
Health officials went on to say that the delta variant of the virus, which spreads easier and poses a higher risk of hospitalization, is believed to be contributing to the increase.
“Vaccination continues to be our best tool to move past this pandemic,” the health department said.
Case numbers for the past 14 days include 2,207 in Greene County, 430 in Jasper County, 303 in Newton County, 130 in Barry County and 70 in McDonald County.
Meanwhile, those counties fell well below the nearly 40% vaccination rate for Missouri. Vaccination rates were 34.2% in Greene County, 30% in Jasper County, 28.7% in Barry County, 18.4% in Newton County and 14.7% in McDonald County.
Experts say at least 70% of the population needs immunity to minimize spread within a community.
Vaccination is highly encouraged for all eligible, but the department of health gave this advice for those who choose to not get the shot:
Maintain at least 6 feet distance;
Wear a mask when appropriate;
Avoid others if you have COVID symptoms;
Cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue; and
Wash your hands.”
Springfield-area health officials on Wednesday asked Missouri for state funding for a temporary site to care for the influx of COVID-19 patients overwhelming the city’s major hospitals.
CoxHealth and Mercy, along with local health and emergency management leaders, have asked the Missouri Department for Health and Senior Services (DHSS) and the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) for an “alternative care site,” citing a rapid rise in hospitalizations driven by the highly-contagious delta variant.
“We are at our capacity,” CoxHealth president and CEO Steve Edwards said. “This time in the curve we’re behind.”
The city’s hospitals were treated 231 virus patients as of Wednesday and more were expected. The need for beds is expected to outstrip the hospitals’ capacity in the coming days.
“We don’t believe lives are expendable, every loss has family and loved ones with broken hearts,” Edwards said Thursday on Twitter. “Our community can slow this down, but it will take unselfish actions and strong, caring leadership.”
Edwards shared a graphic that showed the rise of COVID patients since the delta variant was first identified in the Taney County waste water. The number of cases increased from 14 in mid-May to 139 on Thursday.
“I hope it serves as a message to hospitals across the region how quickly cases may rise, and how important it is to prepare now,” he said.
Meanwhile, federal health officials said the spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant is raising alarms.
“When I look at the map Missouri actually jumps out as the place that I’m most worried about because there’s a lot of cases now happening very rapidly,” Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, told McClatchy in an interview Thursday.
“This is a variant, this delta variant, that’s highly contagious. And so as it starts to spread, anybody who’s not vaccinated is in a danger zone… The chances of getting infected in Missouri are getting really high and that means potentially serious illness or even death,” said Collins, whose agency is the federal government’s primary medical research arm.