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Health officals say social gatherings are causing spike in COVID-19 in Cole County

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)

The Cole County Health department is pleading for people to continue to follow its recommendations, saying there has been "a lack of following issued guidance."

The department released a statement Tuesday saying 72% of the positive COVID-19 cases in the area have been traced to travel or contact to a known case.

The statement said aside from the recent outbreak at a Jefferson City Nursing home, "positive cases in the community have increased because of increased interaction."

As of Tuesday, the county has reported 603 cases of the virus,  bringing the county's August total to 312. ABC 17 News previously reported that on July 12, the county reported 149 total cases. In just 38 days, that number has increased by 454.

The communicable disease coordinator for the department, Chezney Schulte, said the contact tracing investigations have been much larger since things have opened back up.

"What used to be one case impacting a few others that were considered close contacts now includes that positive case participating in group gatherings and larger functions," Schulte said. "So the contact investigation is much larger and the resulting positive cases are many more."

She said while this increase in close contact prolongs the investigations, more contact tracers will be starting soon to help offset the workload.

Cole County currently does not have a health order, but Schulte said it is always something that comes up during discussions about COVID-19.

"We always would like to educate rather than enforce or be in that position, so that is why we are always trying to educate on the benefits of those things," Schulte said. "But we are certainly watching around that state at what other people are implemented and what the impacts of those orders have been."

She said many businesses and large corporations have enacted policies requiring masks, but it's really what happens behind closed doors at private properties or events they are concerned about.

"That's a lot of where the exposure is happening that wouldn't really be impacted by any sort of order we put out because it might be behind closed doors or within personal residences."

As cases continue to go up, Ward 2 Councilman Mike Lester said it is starting to concern him.

"If it continues to go up, we may need to take more serious measures because this is a serious disease," Lester said.

He said orders should be considered on a county-by-county basis, but the growing positivity rate is giving him pause.

"If people do follow the recommendations from the county health department, we can stop the virus," Lester said. "But unfortunately there a people who don't think it's a problem."

Ward 1 Councilman David Kemna said he doesn't think the situation is at a point where an order would be needed, but said it's a continuing conversation with the mayor and council as things change almost daily.

"We're just taking this day by day and seeing how these things turn up as we go along," Kemna said.

He mentioned the outbreak at JC Manor is something to consider as well. And while he doesn't think it's time for any health order, there is room to improve in the city.

"I really feel like if people did adhere to these guidelines, we wouldn't have to have these conversations to have municipalities make decisions like that," Kemna said.

Coronavirus / Jefferson City / Top Stories / Top Stories

Connor Hirsch

Connor Hirsch reports for the weekday night shows, as well as Sunday nights.

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