By Helen Wilbers
Four more cases of COVID-19 have been detected at William Woods University, the Callaway County Health Department announced Monday.
This brings the total number of known Callaway County cases to nine, all centered at WWU.
The Health Department confirmed all nine patients are WWU students but declined to give further information.
The first case was detected Thursday; since then, the Health Department has been working to identify those who may have come into contact with the patients.
"The patients have self-isolated at this time following the Department of Health and Senior Services and Centers for Disease Control (and Prevention) in Atlanta guidelines," a news release from the Health Department's Mylene Dunn noted. "William Woods University opened their Emergency Operations Center upon notification of the first case and has staffed the facility with trained individuals to assist with student health and resource management. This group has worked tirelessly to insure student and community safety."
The Health Department plans to continue working with WWU to follow CDC and DHSS guidelines for cleaning, quarantine and isolation on campus. The WWU campus officially closed Friday; students still on campus are asked to remain sheltered in place in their rooms.
Dunn said she's unsure how many COVID-19 tests have been carried out in the county so far, as the Health Department is only notified of positive results.
Callaway County's nine cases have not yet shown up in the DHSS's official count, which showed 17 cases in neighboring Boone County and five in Cole County, but only one in Callaway County as of Monday afternoon. The DHSS's list was last updated at 2 p.m. Monday and showed 183 total cases in the state.
"All our cases have been tested by a private lab (not the state lab), and I am not sure why they have not (been listed) yet," Dunn said Monday. "Cases (now) do not have to be confirmed by the state lab."
On Sunday, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson directed the DHSS to order statewide social distancing in order to control the novel coronavirus's spread. The order took effect Monday and will remain in effect through at least April 6.
"As the COVID-19 crisis continues to develop, this is a critical step in protecting the health and safety of Missourians," Parson said in a press release. "I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for all citizens to practice social distancing and abide by this order, which is backed by intense deliberation and knowledge."
The order requires the following social distancing measures:
Avoid social gatherings (either planned or spontaneous) that would gather more than 10 people in a single space at the same time.
Avoid eating or drinking at restaurants, bars and food courts. The use of drive-through, pickup or delivery options is allowed through the duration of the order. (The order does not require restaurants to close
Avoid visiting nursing homes, long-term care facilities, retirement homes or assisted living homes except to provide critical assistance.
Schools shall remain closed. However, the order does not prohibit schools from providing child care and food and nutritional services for qualifying children. Teachers and staff may enter the building as long as they follow the order's other directives.
This order does not prohibit people from visiting places such as grocery stores, gas stations, parks and banks, so long as necessary precautions are taken and maintained to reduce the transmission of COVID-19, Parson's news release adds.
Those precautions maintaining at least six feet of distance between all individuals that are not family members; staying home when sick; covering coughs and sneezes; washing hands often with soap and water or hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol; and cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces frequently.
The order does not mandate the closure of restaurants or workplaces.
"For offices and workplaces that remain open, individuals shall practice good hygiene and, where feasible, work from home in order to achieve optimum isolation from COVID-19," the release states. "The more that people reduce their public contact, the sooner COVID-19 will be contained and the sooner this order will expire."
Parson also directed local public health authorities to carry out and enforce the provisions of the order by means of civil proceedings.
The CCHD does not currently plan to carry out enforcement actions, according to Dunn.
"We are asking all our facilities to limit their number to 10 or less; (and) as of 12:01 a.m. (Monday) morning, all restaurants (and) bars are required to do carry-out, curbside pick-up, delivery or drive-thru," she said. "We are currently asking them to do this and expect in good faith they will comply with the governor's orders."
If you suspect that you have COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19, call the COVID-19 Hotline number 1-877-435-8411, or contact your healthcare provider. It is critical that your provider is aware that you may have COVID-19 prior to your arrival at a health care facility. Once directed to a healthcare facility, follow all instructions given there to protect yourself and others, the Health Department said.
This page was edited immediately after it first was published at 10:46 a.m. to correct an error in the headline. It was updated at 11:33 a.m. to reflect additional cases and at 3:44 p.m. with additional information.
For more news about the COVID-19 coronavirus, access the News Tribune Health section.