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story.lead_photo.caption Cole County Health Department Director Kristi Campbell announces during a news conference late Tuesday afternoon, March 17, 2020, that the first positive case of the novel coronavirus in Cole County has been confirmed. Photo by Jeff Haldiman / Fulton Sun.

UPDATE: Second coronavirus case in Cole County confirmed

The first confirmed case of COVID-19 has been reported in Cole County, Cole County Health Department Director Kristi Campbell said Tuesday night.

Campbell said they were respecting the person's privacy and would not go into details about who the person was or where they live other than they could say this was a "travel-related case."

"There's no evidence of community spread from this case," Campbell said. "The testing was done at the State Health Lab in Jefferson City."

The person called a health provider to seek testing.

Campbell also said the person was self-quarantining at home, and health officials would work with the person to monitor medical conditions.

Health officials said having a positive case in the county does not change their recommendations for how the public can protect itself from getting COVID-19. Those recommendations include: washing hands frequently and staying home if you are feeling ill. They also said they have allocated the resources they need to address this situation. This includes personnel and equipment.

Campbell said there had been multiple non-positive tests conducted in Cole County before today's positive test.

State officials confirmed Monday that Suite 840 of the Truman Building was specially cleaned over the weekend because a team member assigned there was tested for COVID-19 on Friday. However, health officials at Tuesday's news conference said they didn't have any reason to believe the person with the positive test had any connection to what occurred at the Truman Building.

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Cole County's coronavirus response

Cole County leaders believe activating the joint Emergency Operations Center at the Jefferson City Police Department to deal with the novel coronavirus will benefit the county and Jefferson City in the long run.

Campbell told Cole County commissioners Tuesday that having the center already operating is rare in an emergency situation.

"Unlike when we had the tornado hit in May, we can be better prepared to face this emergency," Campbell said.

Cole County Sheriff John Wheeler said the EOC helps with communication among agencies and also helps keep track of funds the city and county use during emergencies so it's possible they can be reimbursed for some of those funds by the federal government.

The county health department is notified if people are approved to be tested for the virus by the State Health Lab in Jefferson City, but not if they are tested through a private lab, Campbell clarified Tuesday. However, the county health department would be notified if a test came back positive regardless of where it was tested, she said.

"As soon as COVID-19 started showing up, it was added to the list of normal reported diseases," Campbell said. "There's over 100 mandated reported diseases. Normal coronaviruses that circulate in the community all the time are not mandated to be reported."

Normal coronaviruses cause respiratory tract infections that can be mild, such as some cases of the common cold, Campbell said.

The Cole County Health Department on Monday implemented the recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Missouri Gov. Mike Parson that events including 50 or more people be canceled or postponed.

The recommendation does not apply to schools, institutions of higher learning, businesses or essential governmental proceedings, although many Mid-Missouri schools have announced planned closures.

Cole County Presiding Judge Pat Joyce told commissioners Tuesday about COVID-19 procedures the local court has started to implement at the Cole County Courthouse.

The Missouri Supreme Court announced Monday it has suspended in-person proceedings in all appellate and circuit courts, including all associate, family, juvenile, municipal and probate divisions through April 3.

Joyce said they hope to have in-person cases back in court by April 6. Until then, they are doing jail dockets via video from the Cole County Jail and other corrections facilities.

The Cole County Courthouse is not closed, but it's limiting in-person appearances as much as possible.

Courthouse personnel posted a sign on the front door Tuesday afternoon noting the courthouse was open but "no in-person hearings — except for orders of protection and others approved by a judge."

"We have over 100,000 people come through the courthouse every year, and we're working to get the building cleaned up," Joyce said. "We have had to rethink how we do business, but I want to assure residents that we're working to keep the court system running as smooth as possible."

Those with questions can call the circuit clerk's office at 573-634-9171, and people can also use the Track This Case feature on the state's online courts site, courts.mo.gov/casenet.

Those who need to file an order of protection or a continuance should email [email protected] Joyce urged those needing to contact the clerk to use this email when possible and include their case numbers.

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Upcoming election may be affected

Cole County Clerk Steve Korsmeyer is hopeful state district courts will allow the currently scheduled April municipal elections to be held at a later date due to the COVID-19 emergency.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 417 absentee ballots had been issued for the April 7 elections, three weeks away.

"I don't see us having a run on absentee ballots," Korsmeyer said Tuesday. "I just don't see how we could do the election with the restrictions related to COVID-19 right now. I believe it's around 60 percent of our poll workers are retirees, and I've talked to many who have said they don't want to be out if an election were held in the near future. It would be very difficult for us to try and find enough people to work and you would also lose a lot of experience."

If no changes are made and the election is held April 7, the last day to mail out an absentee ballot would be March 25, and the last day to vote absentee in person in the clerk's office would be April 6.

If the courts were to allow for the elections to be held at a later date, Korsmeyer said, they would just move those absentee ballot dates back as well.

"We could still use our ballots and the programming for our voting machines would still be OK," Korsmeyer said.

For more news about the COVID-19 coronavirus, access the News Tribune Health section.
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