News Briefs

Southeast Missouri county continues mask mandate amid high COVID case, death counts

By: - October 28, 2020 10:59 am

The deaths data, which the department calls “probable” COVID-19 fatalities, is being added eight months after the department began reporting antigen-identified infections in its daily report (image courtesy of CDC).

Cape Girardeau County, which has endured 32 COVID-19 deaths and more than 900 new COVID-19 cases since Oct. 1, will continue to mandate face mask use, the Southeast Missourian reported.

The county health center board voted unanimously Tuesday to continue the order in effect since July 13 until the 14-day tally of new cases falls below 200 and the positive rate on tests falls below 5 percent, the newspaper reported.

And on Wednesday, Missouri Democrats accused Gov. Mike Parson of violating the order at a campaign stop at the popular restaurant, My Daddy’s Cheesecake, as he seeks a full term. In social media postings, Parson can be seen speaking with unmasked people at close range and posing for group pictures without any person wearing a mask.

“Today, Governor Parson egregiously violated Cape Girardeau’s mask mandate — even going so far as to post pictures publicly of him inches from supporters without a mask,” Lauren Gepford, executive director of the party, said in a news release.

Parson’s campaign did not respond immediately to The Independent for comment on the lack of masks in the photos or the Democratic criticism.

Parson and his wife, Teresa Parson, both tested positive for COVID-19 on Sept. 23 and were in isolation until early October. Teresa Parson had mild symptoms and Gov. Parson reported no symptoms.

On its Facebook page, the Cape Girardeau County Health Center reported that while the number of new cases reported has fallen in recent weeks, hospitalizations in the county continue to increase. Of the 50 deaths, 37 occurred in long-term care facilities, the department reported.

The county has 78,871 people, with an overall infection rate of 3,418 cases per 100,000 people and 1,142.4 cases per 100,000 since Oct. 1.

The face mask requirement is one of several local mandates around the state, mainly in the state’s largest communities. Parson has resisted issuing a statewide order requiring masks, instead stating that it is a local decision to be guided by local conditions.

The state Department of Health and Senior Services recommends that all Missourians wear a mask in public settings where social distancing is “difficult to maintain,” such as in groceries, and where there is widespread community transmission,

On Wednesday, the health department reported 1,915 new COVID-19 infections statewide and 32 additional deaths. There has been only four days in October, including three when the state did not update public data, when there have been fewer than 1,000 new cases.

Since the first case was reported in March, Missouri has had 174,632 coronavirus infections and 2,870 deaths. Over the past seven days, the health department has reported an average of 1,966 cases per day. On its online dashboard, which includes cases through Sunday, the health department seven-day average was 1,769 cases per day, up 88 from the previous day.

There was at least one new coronavirus infection reported in 106 of 117 local health jurisdictions.

Over the past seven days, the highest infection rates have been in local jurisdictions with fewer than 50,000 residents. Those counties, with about one-quarter of the state’s population, have reported more than one-third of the cases in that period, an infection rate of 282.8 per 100,000 residents.

In the state’s 13 jurisdictions with 100,000 or more people, the infection rate over the past seven days has been 177.7 per 100,000 residents.

The state has 114 county and three city health departments with reports on the state dashboard.

On Tuesday, the state health agency announced public health agencies can start enrolling providers as COVID-19 vaccinators in anticipation of a vaccine expected later this year or early in 2021. The state vaccination plan sets a priority for health care workers, first-responders and people living in aggregate facilities such as nursing homes and assisted living centers.

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Rudi Keller
Rudi Keller

Rudi Keller covers the state budget and the legislature. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, he spent 22 of his 32 years in journalism covering Missouri government and politics for the Columbia Daily Tribune, where he won awards for spot news and investigative reporting.