News Briefs

Franklin County, Joplin issue mask orders amid flood of COVID cases

By: - November 20, 2020 9:46 am

Franklin County Government Center

Two local governments in Missouri dealing with hundreds of active COVID-19 cases and dozens of deaths linked to the contagion imposed local mask mandates hours after Gov. Mike Parson repeated his determination to refrain from a state order.

Hospitalizations in Missouri have continued to increase rapidly this week, with the verified total, from Tuesday, showing 2,734 inpatients and preliminary figures for Thursday showing the total at 2,815. Missouri exceeded 2,000 hospitalizations for the first time on Nov. 6.

Joplin, where total deaths in the region this week exceeded the number of people killed in the May 2011 tornado, will have a mask mandate through Feb. 28, the Joplin Globe reported. The Joplin City Council approved the ordinance on a 6-3 vote in a special meeting Thursday night that lasted three hours, the newspaper reported.

The Franklin County Commission voted to impose a face mask requirement for the next 30 days for anyone 10 years old or older “any time they are, or will be, in contact with other people in public indoor spaces who are not household members.”

Joplin straddles the Jasper and Newton county lines and is one of three city health departments – the others are Kansas City and St. Louis – that is listed separately in state reports. All three jurisdictions are in the top 20 of 117 total local jurisdictions in terms of total cases and deaths since the pandemic began in March.

The three jurisdictions have a combined 10,314 total COVID-19 cases, with 2,640 this month and 1,092 recorded on the state health department dashboard in the past seven days. Jasper County is 10th statewide for overall cases, while Joplin is 18th and Newton County is 19th.

Joplin has recorded 59 deaths from COVID-19, Jasper County has recorded 69 and Newton County has 38, for a total of 166. The EF5 tornado that tore through Joplin on May 22, 2011, is blamed for 161 deaths.

Franklin County, with a population of 103,967, has the state’s 13th largest number of overall cases with 4,247, with 1,368 reported this month, according to data from the state Department of Health and Senior Services. Franklin County has experienced 59 deaths, ninth among the 117 local health jurisdictions.

During his weekly COVID-19 briefing Thursday, Parson said he supported local jurisdictions in actions they take to control spread of the coronavirus, but that he would not yield to pressure from the Missouri Hospital Association and other medical providers who have pleaded for state action.

“I have been very clear on that from the beginning and that has not changed,” Parson said. “What I am opposed to is mandates from this position to the people of this state.”

The state health department reported 4,614 new COVID-19 infections statewide on Friday, the 16th consecutive day of 3,000 or more cases. The seven-day average of reported cases rose to a new high of 4,722 per day. The seven-day average on the health department dashboard, which is based on cases through Tuesday, was 3,718 per day.

There have been 262,436 total cases since the first was reported in March.

The state heath department also reported 30 additional deaths, bringing the total to 3,537 since the first was reported in March. The state death rate is 1.35 percent of total cases, well below the national rate of 2.15 percent and a worldwide rate of 2.4 percent.

The state has made two changes to its dashboard, dropping a state-generated positivity rate in favor of the CDC-designed rate. The state version used only one test per patient, meaning that anyone who had a negative test previously was only included in new positives. The CDC-designed rate bases its rate on the share of total tests in the past seven days that are positive, regardless of how many times previously the person was tested.

It has also added a measure of available hospital beds, which showed Friday that 34 percent of staffed inpatient beds statewide were available for use. There were 323 COVID-19 patients on ventilators statewide, the highest number yet for the pandemic.

“It is still important to note that not all of these inpatient beds are appropriate for all COVID-19 patients, as these beds include pediatric beds as well as specialty beds such as ‘burn unit’ beds,” the health department stated in a release detailing the changes.

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Rudi Keller
Rudi Keller

Rudi Keller covers the state budget, energy and the legislature. He’s spent 22 of his 30 years in journalism covering Missouri government and politics, most recently as the news editor of the Columbia Daily Tribune. Keller has won awards for spot news and investigative reporting.