From a public health perspective, the month of November was the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic for Perry County.
Beginning Oct. 31, the number of cases of the novel coronavirus nearly doubled the total from the previous seven months, rising to nearly 1,800 cases and 16 deaths by Nov. 30.
According to Perry County Health Department director Sylvia Forester, the reason for the unusually large spike wasn’t exactly clear, but she did have some idea what was behind it.
“This is all speculative,” Forester said, “but there were a lot of large social gatherings where pandemic safety precautions weren’t being used.”
On Oct. 30, the health department reported a total of 990 cases, 904 “recoveries” and nine deaths.
On Monday, 31 days later, the health department reported a total of 1,798 cases — an increase of 808, or an average of 26 new cases per day — and seven additional deaths.
“We saw increases throughout the state of Missouri, not just Perry County,” Forester said. “We keep playing whack-a-mole with this virus. It shouldn’t have to get to this point. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The point is to prevent people from dying. The point is to prevent hospitalizations. The point isn’t to freak out when the hospitals are getting overwhelmed. The point is to prevent them from even getting overwhelmed to begin with.”
Like many rural hospitals around the state, Perry County Memorial Hospital, a 25-bed critical access hospital in Perryville, reported last week that it was close to the edge in terms of staffing necessary to care for patients because of an influx of COVID patients and the difficulty they were facing in finding larger hospitals — many of which are facing problems of their own — that were still able to take transfers.
“We can put two beds in a room,” said PCMH interim CEO Chris Wibbenmeyer. “We can put beds in hallways. We can do that sort of thing, but there’s no point in doing that if you don’t have the staff to care for them.