With Northwest Missouri counties seeing an increase in daily COVID-19 cases, the state has issued a hot spot advisory warning of an even greater spike.
Though some areas in Missouri have had low case numbers, Andrew, Atchison, Buchanan, Gentry, Harrison, Holt and Nodaway counties were placed under the advisory. Numbers indicate that the northernmost counties have had the most severe increase.
The increase in cases also has contributed to the highest total in quarantined students in the St. Joseph School District over the last three months. As of last week, 207 students districtwide were quarantined.
As of Nov. 17, there were 82 positive cases documented in Buchanan County.
Cases over the course of the pandemic have come in peaks and valleys. St. Joseph Health Director Debra Bradley said this latest spike comes a bit earlier than she was expecting, which she attributes to a combination of the county’s lower vaccination rate of 36% and COVID-19 fatigue and complacency from the community.
“With the holidays coming up, we do anticipate more cases, so it’s not good to be designated a hot spot prior to the holidays,” Bradley said.
Dr. Gary Clapp, a Missouri Western State University chemistry professor who tracks the 14-day, 10-day and seven-day rolling averages of COVID cases, said that while an increase isn’t completely unexpected, there could be various reasons for the spike.
“It may simply be the way the virus spreads ... the aerosol particles with the virus come from our mouth is how it’s predominantly spread, so if we don’t interact with people that have it, or if you wear a mask, chances are you’re going to be protected,” Clapp said.
Andrew County has seen an increase in cases as well and currently has a vaccination rate of just under 43%. Jayne White, the county’s communicable disease nurse, said it is important that the public is informed when cases start to rise, as the virus is going to continue to be present in the community.
“People have to learn how to live with this virus. It’s obvious it’s not going away. At this point we have to figure out how to live with the virus,” White said. “We need to try to be proactive and make sure we don’t have a bunch of deaths and we don’t have a bunch of hospitalizations from the illness.”
White said there still is room for optimism as spikes in cases have been less dramatic over time.
“If you look at the numbers from last year, this time was huge numbers but the spikes we’ve had since then have not been near that great ... we’ve seen it go up and come back down into a little valley, and every time it’s done that it’s been less and the numbers haven’t been as big of a spike,” White said.
On Wednesday, Mosaic Life Care reported 33 patients hospitalized for COVID in its system. Of those, 29 were in the health system’s St. Joseph location, with three being treated in Maryville and one at the Albany hospital.