Third case of COVID reported here as numbers increase in nearby areas
Ozark County Health Department administrator Rhonda Suter said Monday that a third case of the COVID-19 virus has been confirmed here. The person is quarantined, and close contacts have been notified, Suter said, adding that the individual had visited two Gainesville businesses during the week prior to testing positive – Lick Creek Bullseye in Gainesville during the morning of Monday, July 13 (but the person did not go inside the store) and Town & Country Supermarket after 3 p.m. Tuesday, July 14. The person wore a mask during that visit, Suter said.
“If you were in any of these locations at times indicated you should watch for symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, loss of smell or taste and fatigue,” Suter said in a Facebook post. Anyone who develops any of these symptoms should call their doctor and arrange to be tested, she said. Although only three Ozark County residents have tested positive for the virus, Suter said in a July 10 post that visitors to the county had tested positive and were possibly contagious during their time here. The visitors were known to have been at several county businesses from June 28 to July 5, including Rockbridge Restaurant, Town & Country Supermarket, Ozarks Plaza Motel, Century Bank of the Ozarks in Gainesville, Gainesville Medical Clinic and Cloud 9 Restaurant.
Ozark County’s first confirmed case was reported June 19 and was related to a Howell County case.
The announcement about Ozark County’s third case came as COVID numbers in adjoining counties made big increases during the past week, and Missouri set a single-day record of 958 new cases on Saturday, July 18, according to news reports, passing the previous single-day total of 936 new cases that was set on Tuesday, July 14.
Douglas County reported its first COVID-19 death on Saturday, July 18, when a person described as in their 80s succumbed to the virus. The Douglas County Health Department also reported that three individuals are currently hospitalized due to COVID-19. The number of cases in Douglas County increased by 17 last week, bringing the total confirmed in the county to 33.
On July 16, the Howell County Health Department announced that the county’s 56th case was a person from the Caulfield area who was reported to have visited the Lost Woods Golf Course in Theodosia on July 11.
Although Ozark County still has one of the lowest case rates in Missouri, cases are on the rise in surrounding counties, including “It is wise to consider that the virus may be anywhere at any time,” Suter in a Facebook post. “You may come into contact with someone who does not have any symptoms and is positive.
“Not everyone with a fever or cough has the coronavirus. It is important to remember that you should social distance, wear a face mask if social distancing is not possible. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water. Stay home if you’re sick,” she said.
“We can only control our behavior,” she continued. “Please do your part to keep yourself, your family, your friends and our community healthy and safe.”
Local businesses respond
to the pandemic
Because of the increase in positive cases in the area and around the country, some local businesses have stepped up their efforts to protect employees and customers.
Most county convenience stores, Town & Country Supermarket, Dollar General stores, the Gainesville post office and area banks now have plexiglass shields at checkout stations and service counters.
Town & Country in Gainesville requires all employees to wear masks or face shields, manager Roger Frost said Monday. Customers are not required to wear masks. The store has several markers on the floor reminding customers of the recommendation to maintain a 6-foot distance from each other.
Gainesville Dollar General manager Chad Uchtman said that Dollar General stores nationwide are now requiring employees and customers to wear masks.
Masks are not required at Gainesville’s Bullseye stores.
One unusual side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic is an apparent coin shortage, causing some businesses to encourage customers to pay with exact change or to pay with check or debit or credit card. Local stores contacted by the Times said they had some struggles in getting the coins they need to give change for purchases because the local banks are limited in the amount of coins they can give out.
“The Federal Reserve is currently limiting all banks on how much coin we can purchase from them, which in turn means we are limited on how much we can sell to our local businesses,” said Kerrie Zubrod, head of marketing at Century Bank of the Ozarks. “At this time we are selling coin to customers only, and potentially in lesser quantities than what they might usually get. We feel this is a temporary problem that will hopefully resolve as businesses are opening back up.”
Stockmens Bank manager Mason Eslinger said their branch hasn’t had any problems with a coin shortage yet. He was optimistic that it would not be a problem in the future.
Town & Country isn’t encouraging exact change from customers, although the store is having “a little trouble getting enough coins,” said Frost. “We’re just doing the best we can do.” He added that he was bringing in his own change from home to trade for currency, and he welcomed employees to do so also.
Both Gainesville Bullseye locations and Dollar General are asking customers for exact change, when possible, or encouraging them to use other methods of payment. Dollar General also offers customers the option of “rounding up” their purchase payments to the nearest dollar with the extra amount going to the corporation’s nationwide literacy campaign.
COVID confirmed in Baxter Regional Medical Center employees
Baxter Regional Medical Center in Mountain Home, Arkansas, confirmed on Friday, July 17, that three employees in the Baxter Regional Heart Clinic have tested positive for COVID-19.
The three were among 14 new COVID cases confirmed in Baxter County in the past week, bringing the county’s total to 44. The Baxter Bulletin reported Thursday that 17 people – nine students and eight staff members – were quarantined after a positive case of COVID was reported in the Mountain Home Public School’s summer session.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson last week issued an executive order requiring face coverings to be worn in Arkansas “when exposed to non-household members” and also requiring people to maintain 6-foot distance from each other when possible. Several exceptions were given, including for those younger than 10 and those with medical conditions. First-time violators are to be given a warning, but subsequent violators may be subject to a $100 to $500 fine, according to the order.
According to a BRMC press release, the first heart clinic employee tested positive from community transmission earlier in the week and is suspected to have spread the virus to the other two employees. All three employees work in close proximity with each other.
The announcement said “Baxter Regional believes that the possibility of transmission to patients is low due to the employees wearing the proper PPE, but they are actively monitoring the situation and will conduct patient tracing where applicable to determine if any additional steps will be necessary.”
The hospital is also tracking and testing any employee who may have been in contact with the staff members who tested positive.
“Unfortunately, our healthcare professionals are not immune to this virus either, and we must all strictly follow the guidance of staying home when we have tested positive,” said Ron Peterson, BRMC president and CEO.
Patients with questions should call the Heart Clinic at 870-508-3200 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
OMC relaxes visitor restrictions
COVID is also increasing in Howell County, where 23 new cases were reported in the last week, bringing the county’s total to 68. However, Ozarks Medical Center in West Plains announced on July 14 that it was easing its restrictions on hospital visitors and will now allow each patient to have one visitor per day from 4 to 6 p.m. Each patient will be required to have the same visitor for the duration of their stay, and the visitor will be required to remain in the patient’s room at all times while in the hospital, according to an OMC announcement.
Visitors will be screened at the entrance to the hospital and will be asked to wear a mask.
“Visitors are an essential part of the healing process for patients who require our medical care inside the hospital,” said Dr. Samantha Wallace, medical director of the hospitalist team. “Although we are prepared to tighten visitor restrictions in response to any possible spike in cases, we are very pleased to welcome visitors back into our healthcare facility.”
Currently all coworkers, volunteers, patients and visitors are required to wear masks in shared common spaces. Temperatures are also taken before entering any OMC facility.