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In the red zone

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A report for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, dated Sunday, July 26, shows Missouri and Polk County in the red zone for its confirmed COVID-19 cases. 

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The red zone designation indicates the state and county had more than 100 new cases per 100,000 population and a diagnostic test positivity result above 10% last week, per the report, which was released by the New York Times on Tuesday, July 28. 

Other Missouri counties within the red zone include McDonald, Newton, Taney, Pettis, Camden, Dunklin, Pemiscot, Carroll, Bollinger, Douglas and Mississippi counties. 

Five metro areas, including Joplin, Branson, Sedalia, Kennett and Hannibal, also fall within the red zone requirements, the report states.

Per the report, last week Polk County fell into the 200-499.9 cases per 100,000 population range, as well as the 10 to 19.9% test positivity range.

The county’s weekly percent of change in new cases per 100,000 was off the charts, with Polk County resting in the highest 1,000% or more increase range.

Polk County also fell into the highest category in weekly change in test positivity, hitting the 2% or more range.    

The report also indicates 14 metro areas and 56 counties across Missouri fall within the yellow zone, which means there were “new cases between 10-100 per 100,000 population, and a diagnostic test positivity result between 5-10%, or one of those two conditions and one condition qualifying as being in the ‘red zone,’” per the report.

Neighboring Greene, Dallas, St. Clair and Dade counties fall within the yellow zone. 

As of Friday, July 31, Polk County had 202 positive confirmed cases of COVID-19, per the Polk County Health Center. 

There were 52 active cases, and 182 people remained in quarantine. 

Over the past week, from Friday, July 24, to Friday, July 31, the county has added 40 positive confirmed cases.   

The health center had reported no COVID-19 related deaths for the county at press time Friday. 

75 cases linked to church event

Polk County Health Center Administrator Michelle Morris addressed Bolivar’s board of aldermen this week at its Tuesday, July 28, meeting.

She said a lot has changed for the county over the past three weeks, with positive cases jumping from 16 on Monday, July 6, to 200 the night of the board meeting.  

“A majority of those cases have been directly tied to a church gathering that happened out in the county,” Morris said. “We have currently identified 75 direct cases to the church gathering, and then we’ve had secondary cases related to those that had attended or been exposed at that event.”

She said another cluster of 39 cases, which erupted around Friday, July 10, has been tied to a local residential care facility. 

“Usually it’s about a 21-day cycle from the point at which you start identifying those cases until you reach a point where those infections then related to other infections start to wane or to slow down,” Morris said. “We are approaching that 21-day cycle.”

Morris said the center is required to report any new cases linked to the church event, previously identified as Sentinel Missionary Baptist Church in Polk, and the residential center, previously identified as Mashburn Residential Learning Center in Bolivar, directly to the state health department.  

“We have some cases right now that we are not able to identify the point source for those positive cases,” Morris said. “So, based on those, we attribute that to community spread. But that number is much smaller than the ones we’re identifying for those two events.” 

She said the center feels a slowing trend seen this week will continue unless there’s another significant exposure event in the community.

The health center is continuing its public education efforts, Morris said, by working with businesses and local residents. 

Morris said the center continues to recommend maintaining social distance, practicing good hand washing techniques, wearing face masks when social distancing isn’t possible and staying home if sick.

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