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County named hot spot

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As positive COVID-19 cases continue to rise, Polk County now has one of the state’s highest seven-day increases.

According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services COVID-19 Dashboard, updated on Thursday, July 23, Polk County saw a 46% increase in positive COVID-19 cases over seven days. 

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That percentage was the second highest in the state, falling only behind neighboring Hickory County, which saw a significantly higher 75% increase over the same time period but had only seven total cases. 

Carol Bookhout, Polk County Health Center community educator and public information officer, said the health center acknowledges some reports indicating the county as a virus hot spot.

“These reports are based on the increase of cases in a short period of time,” she said. “We are working through this by attempting to contain the spread of the virus.”  

As of press time Friday, July 24, the Polk County Health Center said the county had 162 total confirmed cases, an increase of 56 cases in a week. 

Of the county’s total cases, 107 remained active with 55 positive cases released from quarantine. Nearly 350 of the county’s estimated 32,149 residents, or around 1%, remained in quarantine as of Friday afternoon. 

As of press time, the health center had not reported any COVID-19 deaths for the county. The center is not releasing hospitalization information. 

“Hospitalizations are not reported to our health department, so we do not have that information unless it is shared during the contact tracing,” Bookhout previously said. “Since we are unable to report complete accurate information, we will not be reporting hospitalizations for the county.”

County to stay on current recovery step

Bookhout said Polk County will remain in step three of the second phase of its COVID-19 Response and Recovery Plan despite the increase in cases.  

The county moved into step three on Tuesday, June 23, when the county had 13 confirmed cases.   

“At this time, we are not recommending a step backward in our recovery,” she said. “We recommend the community continue to operate at our current recovery phase two, step three while stressing the importance of social distancing and wearing face coverings.”  

In phase two, step three, Bookhout said the center recommends “individuals and organizations increase the focus on personal protection through hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette and self-isolation with symptom onset.”  

She said anyone who is high risk should continue to limit interactions to those considered vital.  

“Businesses should continue to apply physical distancing strategies whenever possible,” Bookhout said. “Mass gatherings should be limited to 250.”  

She said people should avoid non-essential travel.  

“If travel is necessary, the mode of travel, activities while traveling and interactions with people while traveling should be considered,” Bookhout said.  

For more information about the county’s response and recovery plan, visit the health center’s website at polkcountyhealthcenter.org.

Library requires masks

The Polk County Library announced in a news release this week it will now require its patrons ages 12 and up to wear face masks when visiting all library buildings. 

“Due to the recent rise of COVID-19 cases in Polk County, the library is seeking extra measures of protection and safety,” the release said. 

Since reopening its doors in May after a temporary shut down, the library has continued to enforce quarantine procedures for returned library materials, the release said.  

For instance, social distancing and increased sanitation have been top priorities at Polk County libraries, the release said. 

“In light of the increase of cases, we are doing everything we can think of to protect our staff and patrons,” Tiffany Taylor, assistant director, said in the release. “We have noticed the trend of other organizations enforcing masks, and we feel that it is necessary to follow suit in order to be proactive and to unify our community efforts in the prevention of COVID-19.”

Patrons who have medical conditions will not be required to wear masks, the release said. Also, curbside services will be available and other procedures will be implemented for patrons who do not wish to enter buildings with masks.

“In adhering to CDC and Polk County Health Department guidelines, Polk County Library will make every effort to remain open to the public in the safest manner possible,” the release said. 

The library will also continue to monitor the number of cases and implement any further actions as the situation demands. 

For more information, call the Bolivar library at 326-4531.

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