As the cold weather approaches and holiday celebrations are at hand, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges individuals to use caution during the upcoming weeks and months as a third surge in COVID-19 cases is forecast.
Nineteen states are reporting significant increases in the virus. According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, Missouri is no exception with a 21.1 positivity rate increase in the last seven days. There are a total of 158,101 cases of COVID-19 in Missouri as of Monday afternoon. The state has reported 2,590 deaths since the pandemic began in March.
Officials at the Pettis County Health Center are reporting similar findings.
“We are getting so many cases that it is taking all day and into the night to get all the cases found and prepared so the case investigators/contact tracers can start making phone calls,” Health Center Administrator JoAnn Martin said via email. “Where we used to get 10-15 cases a day, we now are getting 30 plus cases most days, on Friday we received 46 cases.”
Martin explained the continuing increase in the number of cases is placing a strain on a variety of segments of the community.
“Most people will think about the hospital where the most ill are being cared for and the staff of Bothwell and our health care providers are working hard to care for everyone who needs care not just for those with COVID, but all of the other health issues experienced by a community continue — babies are still being born, people need surgery, people have accidents needing care,” Martin explained. “Caring for all of those issues plus COVID and getting ready for influenza is testing the system.
“In addition, the continuing high number of cases pushes the opening of long term care and assisted living facilities further into the future,” she continued. “Parents are off work to care for children who have been quarantined and businesses are losing employees who must isolate at home because they are ill and their close contacts are quarantined.”
According to Martin, a lot of transmission is happening within families and social groups. Martin commented, “there is a tendency to believe that friends and family members would not have the virus and therefore we are safe when we are close together and share items.
“Unfortunately, there is no way to look at a person to know if they are carrying the virus,” she said. “The virus does not care who the next victim will be — the virus is only looking for the next host.”
The CDC issued the following statement concerning guidelines for holiday gatherings.
“There are several factors that contribute to the risk of getting infected or infecting others with the virus that causes COVID-19 at a holiday celebration. In combination, these factors will create various amounts of risk, so it is important to consider them individually and together:
• Community levels of COVID-19. Higher levels of COVID-19 cases and community spread in the gathering location, as well as where attendees are coming from, increase the risk of infection and spread among attendees. Family and friends should consider the number and rate of COVID-19 cases in their community and in the community where they plan to celebrate when considering whether to host or attend a holiday celebration. Information on the number of cases in an area can be found on the area’s health department website.
• The location of the gathering. Indoor gatherings generally pose more risk than outdoor gatherings. Indoor gatherings with poor ventilation pose more risk than those with good ventilation, such as those with open windows or doors.
• The duration of the gathering. Gatherings that last longer pose more risk than shorter gatherings.
• The number of people at the gathering. Gatherings with more people pose more risk than gatherings with fewer people. CDC does not have a limit or recommend a specific number of attendees for gatherings. The size of a holiday gathering should be determined based on the ability to reduce or limit contact between attendees, the risk of spread between attendees, and state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations.
• The locations attendees are traveling from. Gatherings with attendees who are traveling from different places pose a higher risk than gatherings with attendees who live in the same area. Higher levels of COVID-19 cases and community spread in the gathering location, or where attendees are coming from, increase the risk of infection and spread among attendees.
• The behaviors of attendees prior to the gathering. Gatherings with attendees who are not adhering to social distancing (staying at least 6 feet apart), mask wearing, hand washing, and other prevention behaviors pose more risk than gatherings with attendees who are engaging in these preventative behaviors.
• The behaviors of attendees during the gathering. Gatherings with more preventive measures in place, such as mask wearing, social distancing, and hand washing, pose less risk than gatherings where fewer or no preventive measures are being implemented.”
The CDC states the above considerations are meant to supplement and not replace any local or state health and safety laws, rules, and regulations. The CDC states people should assess current COVID-19 levels in the community to determine whether to postpone, cancel, or limit the number of attendees at a holiday celebration.
“At this time, the only strategies available to slow the spread of the virus are the same guidelines that have been discussed for months — wear a mask, maintain social distance of at least 6 feet, stay home if you are ill, do not go to crowded places and wash your hands frequently,” Martin explained. “The face covering rule is still in place. There has been no ruling from the court removing the requirements.”
Martin noted everyone is very tired of all the restrictions and longing to return to how life was before the pandemic started.
“Unfortunately, wishing for a return to normal will not make it happen,” Martin said. “Each day is a new record for the number of cases received. We have to work on this together or the services we need may not be available.”