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Boone County medical director expects COVID-19 cases to rise, hopes for smaller spike


After the city of Columbia and Boone County ordered residents to stay home Tuesday, one county health leader said Wednesday that she expects the number of COVID-19 cases to rise.

"I think we are going to see more cases for sure," said Dr. Ashley Millham, medical director of the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health. "But I hope it's a slower rise and a shorter peak."

Early Wednesday afternoon Boone County officials reported 22 cases of the novel coronavirus.

"I don't think we're at the peak now, I wish we were, but I don't think that's realistic," Millham said.

Millham said it's all about flattening the curve, which means trying to limit the number of cases so the hospitals don't become overrun. While she says they believe about 80 percent of cases will have mild to moderate symptoms and about 14 percent will require hospitalization at this point, a large spike can put major strains on health care providers.

"If we can keep that number that's happening at one time lower, then as a health care system we are able to care for the patients that need care in the best way possible," Millham said.

Millham believes officials in the county and Columbia have been proactive in promoting social distancing from the start and agrees the stay-at-home order that went into effect Wednesday morning was the next step, because community transmission is present in the area.

"I think it's the right thing for our community right now because we are seeing community-transmitted cases even though it's a small number," Millham said. "We want to keep that number as small as possible and again avoid a sudden peak."

Of the 22 cases in Boone County, three were confirmed as community transmission, meaning the patient could not identify any confirmed case they could have been in contact with. In other words, they caught the virus going about their day-to-day life.

Millham believes most people in Boone County are taking social distancing seriously, but knows how this can affect people financially, physically and emotionally.

"There are significant social repercussions in people's lives from social distancing, so I do hope people know this decision was not made lightly," Millham said. "But there is also serious life that can be preserved by flattening that curve by utilizing social distancing."

Millham said the department has received questions about when the stay-at-home order will end, and knows it's difficult for people when it seems there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

"The request for people to stay home except for essential things doesn't have an endpoint right now because we don't have an accurate endpoint to give people," Millham said. "However, that doesn't mean there won't be one, that just means we don't have one today."

The department is working with University of Missouri Health Care and Boone Hospital Center, as well as other health departments, on continuing plans for Mid-Missouri.

She urged the public to follow the guidelines set by officials to end this as soon as possible.

Check back for more or watch ABC17 News at 5 for a full report.

Boone / Columbia / Health / News / Top Stories

Connor Hirsch

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


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