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White House puts Missouri in ‘red zone’ for coronavirus cases


Missouri is now in the “red zone” when it comes to COVID-19 cases, according to a new White House designation. 

The report, issued on July 26, put Missouri in the red zone for cases as there have been more than 100 new cases per 100,000 people in the past week. As for test positivity, Missouri is still in the yellow zone category, according to the report. 

And while Missouri averaged 131 new cases per 100,000 people last week, it’s still below the national average of 140 per 100,000. 

St. Louis, Jackson, and St. Charles counties have the most cases respectively, and account for about 48 percent of cases in Missouri, the report said. 

Nearly 100 people have been dispatched from the federal government to support FEMA operations. An additional five people from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have been sent to help with epidemiology activities, and one is supporting operations with Veterans Affairs. 

The report was sent to states this week by the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force, according to the New York Times. A spokeswoman for Gov. Mike Parson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

“It is no surprise that we have seen a resurgence of cases in many communities throughout Missouri over the past month,” Dr. Randall Williams, director of Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS), told The Missouri Times. “Although we are seeing an increased number of cases, we feel we are in a different place than we were in March and April. We know more about how this virus behaves, and we are more prepared.”

Nearly 47,000 Missourians have tested positive for COVID-19 since testing began in March, according to Wednesday’s data, and has recently been breaking records with the number of cases added each day. Additionally, at least 1,220 people have died. 

The state added more than 8,000 cases over the past week and has a diagnostic test positivity rate of 8 percent, according to the federal government’s data. The death rate remains 1 in 100,000. 

Red zone areas within Missouri include the cities of Branson, Hannibal, Joplin, Kennett, and Sedalia. The top 12 counties include Bollinger, Camden, Carroll, Douglas, Dunklin, McDonald, Mississippi, Newton, Pemiscot, Pettis, Polk, and Taney. 

Cape Girardeau, Columbia, Jefferson City, Kansas City, Lebanon, Marshall, Mexico, Poplar Bluff, Sikeston, Springfield, St. Louis, and Warrensburg are listed in the yellow zone along with Boone, Cape Girardeau, Cass, Clay, Green, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Johnson, St. Charles, and St. Louis counties. 

The report recommended closing bars and gyms in counties with at least a positivity rate of more than 10 percent over a seven-day period and limit gatherings to 10 or fewer people. Community-led testing and investigations of outbreaks should continue as well as enforcement of strict social distancing and mask-wearing in meatpacking facilities, the report suggested. 

The federal report also recommended the promotion of mask-wearing while people are in public. While Missouri does not have a statewide mandate, several counties and cities have instituted such policies. 

The move comes on the heels of both New York and Chicago issuing mandatory quarantine advisories for people traveling from Missouri. 

Williams’ full statement is below:

“It is no surprise that we have seen a resurgence of cases in many communities throughout Missouri over the past month. Although we are seeing an increased number of cases, we feel we are in a different place than we were in March and April. We know more about how this virus behaves, and we are more prepared. 

Then, we didn’t have the capacity to test more than just a few thousand Missourians each week. Now, more than 90,000 people are being tested in a week. 6.6 percent of those tested throughout this pandemic have received positive results. 

We are also seeing a dramatic shift in the ages of those diagnosed with COVID-19 in Missouri. The average age of someone testing positive for COVID-19 in Missouri is continuing to decline steadily — in the past week, the average age has dropped to 41.

While younger, healthier people are less likely to have severe illnesses related to COVID-19, we are concerned that as places have reopened individuals, especially those in their 20s and 30s who seem to be driving the increase, have let their guard down on using preventive measures such as social distancing, wearing face masks and using good handwashing. As Gov. Parson always says, ‘COVID-19 is still here.’

Regardless of age, we need everyone to take this virus seriously and use prevention measures. It’s not just about your own health. You can bring this virus to someone more vulnerable than yourself. Everyone has a responsibility to help keep their families and communities safe by doing their part.

One thing highly unusual about this virus, in particular, is that patients have experienced such a wide degree of variation in illness severity. Some never experience any symptoms at all, and yet they are able to pass it on to others who sadly succumb to the same virus. This is troublesome because many downplay the potential of the virus.”

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This story has been updated to include a statement from DHSS Director Randall Williams. 

EDITOR’S NOTE: For up-to-date information on coronavirus, check with the CDC and DHSS.