Missouri reached a milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic Friday when as new cases in the state’s most sparsely populated counties showed that all 117 local health jurisdictions have had at least 100 coronavirus infections.
The Department of Health and Senior Services reported four new cases each in Mercer and Worth counties, both on the Iowa border, raising their case tallies to 102 and 101, respectively.
Mercer County, with 3,617 people, has the second-lowest overall infection rate for the pandemic, with 28 cases per 1,000 people. Worth, the least populous county in the state with 2,013 residents, has an overall infection rate of 50.2 per 1,000 people, has the 69th highest per capita infection rate for the pandemic overall but the second-highest rate in the state so far this month.
Mercer has recorded one death from COVID-19, while Worth County has not had a resident die of the disease. Worth County has the highest positive rate on COVID-19 tests over the past seven days, 52.6 percent, while the statewide positive rate has slowly in recent weeks and stood at 18.7 on Friday.
The state health department reported 3,900 new cases Friday, which would have been a record any day before Nov. 5 but is just above the seven-day average of reported cases, which stood at 3,597 per day on Friday.
There was at least one new case reported in 114 of the state’s 117 local health jurisdictions on Friday.
Hospitalizations, which have fluctuated between 2,575 and 2,850 for the past three weeks, stood at 2,795 inpatients on Tuesday, the latest day for which verified information is available.
The high number of inpatients continues stress hospitals, with one in southeast Missouri reporting it has transferred patients out of state – sometimes sending them hundreds of miles – for care. In other locations, local officials cite hospital numbers for imposing new mask mandates and high case numbers overall for beefing up enforcement and increasing fines for mask violations.
And in Audrain County, health officials have asked commenters on its Facebook posts “to please refrain from using profanity in any way (abbreviated, emoji, words or otherwise)” when posting in celebration or “defamatory comments” about a business.
In Butler County on the Arkansas border, Donald Piland, a member of Poplar Bluff Regional Medical Center’s Board of Directors on Monday asked the Poplar Bluff City Council to pass an ordinance requiring masks in public, the Poplar Bluff Daily American Republic reported.
The hospital has had a full COVID-19 unit for the past three months and has transferred patients as far as Tulsa, Oklahoma, 370 miles away, for treatment, Piland said.
“We desperately need our city council to be proactive and enact a mandatory mask ordinance much like (29 states and) … the 19 Missouri communities that have already done, if only for three months to help us get through the flu season and into the time we can all get vaccinated,” said Piland, the newspaper reported.
Butler County has recorded 2,508 COVID-19 cases and 10 deaths, according to state health department data.
The council took no action on the request, the newspaper reported.
In Livingston County in west-central Missouri, Presiding Commissioner Ed Douglas asked for understanding for the countywide mask order recently enacted.
“The background for the mask mandate is that our local hospital was at a point where they could no longer transfer patients to any other hospitals and therefore were extremely concerned about their ability to take care of COVID-19 patients and other patients needing hospitalization,” Douglas wrote in a statement published by the Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune.
Livingston County, with 15,227 people, has recorded 861 coronavirus infections overall and 76 since the month began.
In his statement, Douglas said the mask mandate is similar to requirements for seat belts in cars, orange vests for hunters and smoking bans in restaurants.
“Obviously, this can be a slippery slope and so when an action like masks is taken it needs to be considered carefully and on a limited basis,” he wrote.
The St. Joseph Health Department has increased the fine for businesses that violate the city’s mask mandate, KQTV reported. The fine will now be as much as $500, the station reported, and the health department will begin active enforcement, sending inspectors to do random checks to make sure the ordinance is enforced.