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Cole County, Jefferson City leaders push personal responsibility as COVID-19 cases climb


Cole County has more than doubled its confirmed cases of COVID-19 over the past month, and local leaders are staying optimistic.

According to data from the Cole County Health Department, there were 149 total cases on July 12. Just one month later on Wednesday, that number was at 457 total cases. That's an increase of 308 cases.

Chezney Schulte, the communicable disease coordinator for the Cole County Health Department, said July has been the most active month for COVID-19 cases. She continued to stay optimistic about the number of active cases and the positivity rate. As of Wednesday, there are 81 active cases and the positivity rate is at 2.76 percent.

While the positivity rate has been going up, Schulte said doctors have been trying to conserve tests. She said they are only testing those people who have symptoms or who have been exposed.

"We are aware that it is here in the county, I think everyone else is aware of that now, too," Schulte said. "That's where your preventative practices, no matter what you are doing, no matter what your work or interaction in the community is."

She said the health department is focusing on education about their health recommendations instead of rules or orders. Those recommendations include social distancing, masks and hand-washing.

"I think education and recommendations go a lot further than enforcement and orders in some regards," Schulte said. "We want to educate the why behind these things."

Cole County Commissioner Sam Bushman is optimistic about the current state of the county. He said many of the cases have been mild and have not required hospitalization.

Bushman said he thinks the health department's recommendations are enough for now. He says many of the small towns in the county have yet to see a COVID-19 case.

"Jefferson City, if they want to do a mask ordinance that's on them, but out in the county our communities wouldn't understand why we are doing something like that," Bushman said. "But with the recommendation if people just follow that it does recommend people wear masks."

Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin agreed that it's about educating people about the recommendations right now instead of putting an order in place.

"Our goal is for them to remain voluntary and for people to comply so they don't have to be made mandatory," Tergin said.

Case numbers have been sporadic this past week. Some days the county only reported one new case, but Wednesday the county reported a record-breaking increase of 38 cases. Tergin said the city and health department continue to monitor the cases.

"We have that expectation that people will do what is expected of them and remember how important it is to keep that distance and do what they can to affect others," Tergin said.

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Connor Hirsch

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


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