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Health official: New COVID-19 cases might increase as reopening continues


Many Mid-Missouri counties are seeing fewer or no active COVID-19 cases two weeks after a statewide stay-at-home order expired, but at least one local health official said an increase is expected.

The Columbia/Boone County Health Department reported its largest jump in cases since mid-April with four on Sunday. There are currently eight active cases out of the 104 confirmed in Boone County.

Health departments in Howard County, Osage County, Randolph County and Cooper County have reported having no active novel coronavirus cases. And as of Monday, Callaway County health officials said there was a single active COVID-19 case.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEMay 18, 20201:15PMRandolph County, MO: The Randolph County Health Department was notified that...

Posted by Randolph County Health Department on Monday, May 18, 2020

The state added 333 COVID-19 cases over the weekend, according to data from the state health department.

The Cole County Health Department website said on Sunday that there were no active cases.

Chezney Schulte, Cole County's communicable disease coordinator, said an increase in COVID-19 cases would be expected as counties are reopening and people are returning to a new normal.

Schulte said there is not a certain number of cases that trigger stricter orders.

Schulte said it really depends on the activity of those cases or how extensive the contact investigations go.

"We're looking at outbreak scenarios versus isolated incidents," Schulte said. "Or if it's known contact to a positive case versus a community spread. So all of those things kind of go into the investigation to see what the risk is to the county, or if they seem to be isolated incidents."

Schulte said if Cole County did see an increase in cases, it would be expected right now but health officials are still relying heavily on hospital systems to know when cases reach a level that strains the health care system.

Schulte said an increase in COVID-19 cases is expected because people are returning to work and other aspects of life and coming into contact with others after being isolated.

Schulte said the reopening of Missouri and counties allows for people to come into contact with more individuals, which could drive an increase in case number.

County health officials might see more extensive contact tracing between individuals.

"Prior to now we were really just dealing with a positive case maybe someone's household contacts," Schulte said. "Now we might deal with a positive case and different people in the community that they would have interacted with instead of just being at home."

According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, projections show an increase in the rate of new cases and deaths until around June.

Schulte said those projections are hard to rely on because of the amount of uncertainty that surrounds them.

Schulte said while the IHME predicts an increase in the next week or two, Cole County health officials are hopeful that new cases will remain minimal.

People should inform themselves about the COVID-19 situation where they live, Schulte said, and take appropriate action. Each person can help control their risk by washing their hands frequently and maintaining social distance, she said.

"Those little things that you have control of make a big impact on your overall health or your overall risk of exposure to COVID-19," Schulte said.

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Amber Tabeling

Amber Tabeling

Amber joined the ABC 17 News team as a multimedia journalist in December 2019. She was a student-athlete at Parkland College and Missouri Valley College. She hails from a small town in Illinois.


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