COLUMBIA, Mo (KMIZ)
The state of Missouri is now listed as a "red zone" in a recent US COVID-19 Task Force report.
Missouri was upgraded to the status after confirming more than 100 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 state residents last week.
The New York Times obtained the report Tuesday.
Dr. Randall Williams, the Director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said we have to look past the reports.
"I've always said we treat the patient and not the chart, so as we look at those increased cases, we think that's very different than April," Williams said. "When we look at it closely, we see a marked increase in 20 to 35-year-olds. That's our diagnosis. That's what's driving that increased number in cases."
The highest population of cases in the state was recorded in St. Louis County. The other top counties included Jackson County and St. Charles County, all three represent 47.9 percent of total statewide cases.
Williams said he hopes that having Missouri in the red zone will help more people pay attention and take COVID-19 seriously.
Boone County was listed in the top-12 Missouri counties with the highest new case numbers over the past three weeks.
"We aren't seeing the kinds of increases that they're seeing in St. Louis City, St. Louis County, Jefferson County, anything like that, but we don't have the population they do either," said Scott Clardy, assistant director of Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services.
He also said the county saw a drop in positivity rates about two weeks ago, but over the past seven days, there has been a slight increase in new cases.
Clardy said the department not only sees cases spread due to household contact between family members or roommates but also from social settings.
"We continue to see people, unfortunately, in the younger age group who are just not social distancing," Clardy said. "They are not doing it. They're socializing at their place of residence and also out in the community too."
Missouri has seen some activities open back up recently, which could have attributed to the increase.
"The Director of the St. Louis County Health Department has indicated that it's a couple of things. Youth sports have been a major driver," Clardy said. "It's not just the youth playing with each other, but the people that are there to watch them are not social distancing."
Williams said the department needs to see a change in younger age groups.
"We think that they've heard the message that we've opened up, but they haven't listened to the other message, which is that COVID-19 is still here," he said.
The helath department director wants people to realize that the virus goes far beyond just them.
"I think some of them have the message that it's okay to get COVID-19 and we clearly don't think that's the case," Williams said. "They may give it to their parents or grandparents and some of them may have to isolate or quarantine."
Clardy added Columbia's recent mask ordinance has impacted case numbers.
Boone County health officials working on possible future COVID-19 orders
Boone County's current health order ends on Aug. 10. However, Clardy said there could already be another one in the works.
"We're already looking at what's next," Clardy said. "Certainly, issues with seeing more cases and potentially our positivity rate creeping up again."
The health department said there are a number of factors that could contribute to a new health order.
"Students coming back and with school starting, that's something that we need to look at because we know the cases are going to go up," he said.
Williams said that state officials are going to continue to allow each area to choose what is best for them.
The department's recommendations remain the same, wash your hands, social distance, wear a mask, and stay home when you are sick.
On Monday, St. Louis reduced its occupancy rate back down to 25% because of an increase in cases. Boone County health officials said nothing is out of the question, but they want to avoid that if possible.
Clardy added that now is not the time for people to let their guard down and Williams mirrored that message.
"I think they clearly need to see that if they don't do the things we recommend, even in the middle of July when it's 100 degrees in Missouri, this virus is spreading," Williams said.