Next reopening step comes amid rise in average case numbers

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COLUMBIA—Boone County will enter the next step in re-opening Tuesday, but cases of COVID-19 continue to rise. 

This week, Boone County will enter step three of phase two. The step eases restrictions and removes occupancy limits for most businesses, but it still requires places to maintain social distancing requirements.

Step three in Boone County comes just days after the highest number of COVID-19 cases were seen across the state. Sunday marked the largest jump in cases statewide—802 cases since Friday. 

As of Monday, there have been 18,143 positive cases in Missouri and 956 death statewide. In Boone County, there have  been 273 confirmed cases and 2 deaths. There are 70 currently active cases.

However, these spikes and numbers are not the only data to focus on.

“I wouldn’t get caught up in the day to day because primarily we are looking at the trend,” Boone Hospital’s chief medical officer Dr. Robin Blount said. “And there is no doubt the trend has increased in the last few weeks.”

Across the state, there has been a 8.2% increase in cases during the past seven days.

There’s also a statistic called the R-naught. This variable refers to the predicted number of people that will be infected by each contagious individual. It shows spreading ability. If that number is higher than 1, that means the virus will spread quickly.

Missouri jumped from a low of .78 on April 25 to 1.24 on June 16. The number doesn’t appear to be decreasing either. Missouri ranks 8th in the highest R-naught number among all 50 states.

However, the positivity rate for Missouri shows more promising outcomes. As of Monday, about 5.6% of people test positive out of all testing statewide.

Dr. Albert Hsu, president-elect of the Boone County Medical Society, said the positivity rate is closer to 2-3% in mid-Missouri.

“This means that we are in a good place, but that we are also potentially vulnerable if we let our guard down, since we do not have any significant immunity to COVID-19,” Dr. Hsu said in an COVID-19 informational note.

As for reopening, Dr. Hsu agrees with what the state has done.

“I am personally in full support of the reopening that we've done so far,” he said. “We can't stay shut down forever, and if we're all predicting a fall surge of influenza and COVID-19, then I think it's perfectly reasonable to cautiously reopen over the next few weeks and months.”

But reopening, doesn’t mean people are safe from COVID-19. Blount said reopening requires a lot of social responsibility because many safety procedures cannot be enforced by the law.

“You wear a mask. You use hand sanitizer. You stay back from people,” Blount said. “I can’t say ‘Oh it’s safe’ because people necessarily aren’t going to be safe. They still have to be safe themselves. If we have a lot of people doing the right things, we’ll do well. If we got a lot of people that want to jump in the pool or stand shoulder-to-shoulder in a crowded bar, you’re going to see a lot more cases.”

Some of the key features of the new phase include: 

  • No standing bar, counter or buffet service for bars and restaurants
  • Child care, day camps and other dependent services can operate with stable group sizes of up to 50 children
  • Facilities that offer personal care services, such as hair and nail salons, massage services and others, can operate with 50% occupancy or a total of 50 people, whichever is fewer
  • Pools can operate after a disinfection and monitoring plan is submitted
  • Mass gatherings can have upto 100 people 
  • Non-contact, limited contact, and contact sports and activities are permitted in stable groups of 50 participants

Boone County Health Department released a formal order announcing the move to the next step last week.