Perry County's commissioners, along with Perryville Mayor Ken Baer, issued a joint news release Thursday urging residents to follow the recommendations of the Perry County Health Department regarding COVID-19.
The release, signed by Baer and Presiding Commissioner Mike Sauer, along with associate commissioners Jay Wengert and Jim Sutterer, stopped well short of any discussion of a mask mandate or other measures, calling on residents to utilize "personal responsibility."
"Perry County is experiencing a significant increase in COVID positive cases," the statement distributed to the media read. "We are currently No. 2 in the state for cases per capita and No. 1 per capita over the seven days ended 10 November.
The statement also addressed the rising number of patients requiring hospitalization, which they said, is "causing concerns about overworking our great doctors, nurses, and staff."
"All of us are experiencing 'COVID fatigue' and are tired of hearing about it, but we cannot yet declare the virus defeated or let our guard down," the statement read. "A vaccine is coming but until that happens, we must continue to take personal responsibility to protect ourselves, our families, and our fellow citizens as best we are able.
"Follow our local health department guidelines, they are working very diligently to provide us the information necessary to slow the spread of the virus."
Health department director Sylvia Forester, who was unavailable for comment Thursday, told the Republic-Monitor on Tuesday that the message is the same now as it has been since the pandemic began.
"Our messaging has been very consistent through this entire process," Forester said. "Wear masks, social distance, wash your hands, stay home if you're sick, even if you think it's just allergies or a cold. It's all of the same things, it's just that people have to take it upon themselves to implement it."
"At this point, if you're not wearing a mask or you're holding informal social gatherings where masks and social distancing aren't in force, then you're part of the problem, and we need people to be part of the solution."
Thursday's statement came in the wake of Tuesday's announcement that Perry County was rated No. 1 in the state for new cases of COVID-19 per capita for the seven-day period that ended on Tuesday, and No. 2 overall.
That seven-day period included the two highest single-day totals for new cases since the pandemic began — 45 on Nov. 4 and 56 on Nov. 5. The record for active cases of the novel coronavirus in the county also keeps rising, with a new high of 242 reported Wednesday.
Wednesday's report put the total number of cases in Perry County at 1,319, with 1,068 reported "recoveries" — which Forester said should really be classified as "released from quarantine" — and nine deaths related to the virus.
The report also indicated a new record for active cases in Perry County with 242, up from 225 on Monday.
As of Thursday afternoon, data from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services showed the county had fallen to fourth place in both per capita categories, with 883.2 cases per 100,000 residents over the past seven days, and 5,869 per capita since the pandemic began.