November spike nearly doubles 7-month total

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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.

“Everybody has a threshold, even nurses and doctors. From a staffing capability, we are right at the threshold.”
On Wednesday, the health department reported 20 new cases since Monday, along with 58 additional recoveries and two additional deaths, bringing the totals to 1,816 cases, 1,694 recoveries and 18 deaths. There are 104 active cases being monitored by the health department.
As of Wednesday, Perry County stands third in the state for the total number of positive cases per capita and 29th for positive cases in the past seven days
Statewide, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services on Wednesday reported 305,370 cases and 4,043 deaths, including 19,791 cases and 75 deaths in the past seven days.
To date, DHSS reports that more than 3.1 million tests have been administered in Missouri — a number including those who have been tested more than once —with a positivity rate of 50,571 per 100,000.
A free public testing event — the third for Perry County — has been scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 12, at City Park in Perryville. Like the previous event in September, the event is sponsored by DHSS and will be run by personnel from the Missouri National Guard.
“It’s the exact same as the last few testing events,” Forester said. “It’s going to be the self-administered swab, not the naso-pharyngeal swab. It’s another good opportunity for Perry County citizens to know what their health status is during this time.”
To register for the event, go online to health.mo.gov/communitytest or call 877-435-8411.

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