15th COVID case confirmed here Tuesday
OC still has one of the lowest COVID case counts in the state
Since last week’s Times went to press, Ozark County has more than doubled its confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Ozark County Health Department administrator Rhonda Suter confirmed Tuesday afternoon that the county had received its 15th confirmed case.
She said 600 to 700 patients have been tested at Ozark County medical facilities, and it’s likely that many residents have also been tested at locations outside of the county.
The eight new cases that were confirmed since the previous Monday, Aug. 3, pushed Ozark County to the top of the seven-day percentage increase on the Missouri COVID-19 dashboard on the Department of Health and Senior Services website.
Although the county has seen more than a 100 percent increase in the last week, numbers of confirmed cases here are still low compared with most other counties in the state. In fact, on Monday evening, Ozark County had the seventh lowest number of cases in Missouri. The U.S. Census Bureau website estimates Ozark County’s current population as 9,174.
“I think people are trying to do their best to protect themselves and their families. And we just have to hang in there and stick with that,” Suter said during an Aug. 6 Lions Club presentation about COVID.
There have been no deaths in Ozark County due to the virus; however, Suter did announce that a case that was confirmed Sunday has been hospitalized due to complications with COVID.
Informing the public but not infringing on privacy
Suter says the Ozark County Health Department is purposefully vague in the information it publicly releases pertaining to the residents who have tested positive in order to give patient anonymity.
“As small as the county is, we can figure out who it is. Most of the time, they are going to know in a length of time anyway because they tell family, and they tell friends, and they tell neighbors,” Suter said. “But, no, we try not to tell if it’s a he or a she, or who it is, or what part of the county they live in.”
Instead, Suter says OCHD just states when an Ozark County resident has tested positive and provides a list of public places where the individual may have exposed other residents.
“Because I think we all need to know that, just for peace of mind,” she said. “Then you can think, ‘Was I there on that day, and should I start looking for symptoms?’”
OCHD’s COVID process
Suter said once a medical facility reports a positive case in an Ozark County resident, an OCHD nurse contacts the resident to ask a list of questions, including what their symptoms are, where they’ve been and when they’ve been sick.
Suter said it isn’t always easy or quick, and the task is further complicated when the nurse is unable to make contact immediately with the resident who has tested positive, which has happened a few times.
“[It takes] a couple days sometimes. It is a process, and of course, with the more contacts, the longer that process is to contact everyone,” she said. “But we’ve been pretty fortunate. Our first few [cases] lived in Ozark County, but they didn’t work in Ozark County, so we were saved by that.”
After answering the nurse’s questions, the patient is given a date for staying in quarantine based on the date he or she began to have symptoms, Suter said. The quarantine timeframe has been reduced, based on recent CDC guidance, from 14 days to 10 days.
Close contacts, defined as a person who has been within 6 feet of a person who contracted COVID for at least 15 minutes, are also contacted by OCHD and asked to watch for symptoms or self-quarantine.
Active cases are counted based on residents who are still in quarantine, Suter says. Once the 10-day quarantine period is up, the resident is counted as recovered. They do not have to retest negative, she said.
Suter says OCHD also has other guidelines to follow for advising close contacts of positive patients.
“For instance, if a parent tests positive, they have to quarantine for 10 days, and when their 10 days is up, their kids have to quarantine for another 10 days,” she said. “It gets confusing, but it’s just there as an extra precaution in case they develop symptoms within that period of time.”
Not only older, susceptible residents
Although Suter hasn’t released age ranges for Ozark County’s positive cases, when asked by someone at the Lions Club meeting, she did confirm that the cases have not all been older residents or those who are deemed more susceptible.
“It’s kinda just like your regular flu,” she said. “It can be that everyone is in the household, and maybe one gets it and is bed for a week, and everyone else just kind of feels bad but they’re OK. It’s the same way with this one. Sometimes both spouses test positive, and one’s really sick and the other is like, ‘I feel kinda bad.’ It’s just how your body fights it off, [and] maybe other underlying health issues you might have.“
To contact the Ozark County Health Department, call 417-679-3334.
All counties surrounding Ozark have at least five times more confirmed cases than have been confirmed here.
Taney County (26 percent increase): As of Monday night Taney County, to the west of Ozark County, had confirmed 616 positive COVID cases, including 160 new cases within the last week, indicating a 26 percent increase in recent cases there. The number of new cases looks to have slowed some from the previous week, July 27-Aug. 3, when Taney County had 456 total cases and 189 new cases within the seven-day period, a 41 percent increase.
Taney County has also had five deaths due to COVID. Two of those deaths have been within the last week and were linked to nursing home residents, according to the Taney County Health Department. An Aug. 5 press release from the TCHD confirmed that 72 cases of COVID were confirmed across four Taney County nursing home facilities.
Taney County has a population of 55,928 residents.
Howell County (8 percent increase): Howell County, to the east of Ozark County, has confirmed 153 COVID cases over the course of the year, including 15 known active cases and three that have been hospitalized due to complications with the virus. The cases there increased by 13 patients in a seven-day period, Aug. 3-10, an 8 percent increase. The previous week, July 27-Aug. 4, Howell County had 140 cases, including 27 new cases, a 5 percent increase. Howell County has had two deaths, both reported within the last three weeks. The first death was reported July 28 in a West Plains man in his 90s. Its second death was reported July 30 in a 60-year-old man.
Howell County has a population of 40,117 residents.
Douglas County (11 percent increase): Monday evening, the Douglas County Health Department reported 91 total cases there, including 10 confirmed within the previous seven days, an 11 percent increase. The percentage of increase has went down this week in Douglas County, which is located to the north of Ozark County. The previous week, July 27-Aug. 3, Douglas County had 81 cases with 28 new cases, a 35 percent increase.
According to the DCHD dashboard, the most cases, over 20 of the 90, are in those age 10 to 19. The second largest age group is 70-79. The dashboard also provides information on how patients likely contracted the virus. Douglas County reported that 66 positive cases are the result of close contact with another person who had COVID, and eight cases were the result of travel. The 30 others are unknown.
Three COVID deaths have occurred there. The first death was reported July 17 in a resident who was at least 80 years old. The second death was reported July 27 in a resident who was in their 70s. The third death was reported Aug. 4 in a resident in their 60s.
Douglas County has a population of 13,373 residents.
Baxter County, Ark. (13 percent increase): Baxter County, Arkansas, to the south of Ozark County, reports 71 total cases there, including nine new cases within the last seven days, a 13 percent increase. From July 27 to Aug. 3, Baxter County had 62 cases, including six new cases, a 10 percent increase. There have been no deaths.
Baxter County has a population of 41,932.