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Livingston County mask mandate in effect tomorrow

Angie Talken
Chillicothe News

As cases of COVID-19 continue to rise, Livingston County has been placed under a mask mandate starting tomorrow, Friday. 

Starting Friday an executive order goes into effect which requires residents and anyone in Livingston County to wear maks.

According to the executive order, “All persons age seven years old and above who are present within the jurisdiction of the County of Livingston are required to wear a clean face-covering or mask any time they are or will be, in contact with other people who are not household members. The requirement to wear a face-covering or mask shall go into effect on November 20, 2020. The Health Center and Public Officials will constantly monitor the situation and reevaluate at the beginning of the year.”

The executive order defines a face-covering or mask as a “means a covering made of cloth, fabric, or other soft or permeable material, without holes, that covers only the nose and mouth and surrounding areas of the lower face. Medical grade masks are not required; coverings may be fashioned from gators, bandanas or other materials. A covering that hides or obscures the wearer's eyes or forehead is not a Face mask. A Face mask may be factory-made, or may be handmade and improvised from ordinary household materials.”

Under the order, all businesses must provide masks to their employees and “All public facilities and businesses that are open to the public are required to post a sign at all entrances that face-coverings or masks are required to be worn inside the facility or business.”

In the last six weeks, cases of the virus have increased in the county, Ann Burchett, public information supervisor for the Livingston County Health Center said. While county cases are have risen above 600, the biggest increase came in early October. Statistics from the health center show that on Sept. 1, 81 people had tested positive; by Oct. 1 that number had risen to 230; 320 a week later on Oct. 7; 483 on Nov. 1 and 655 on Nov. 17.

“Chillicothe didn’t have a large number of cases at first, but it’s hitting us hard now,” said Dr. Greg Miller, Medical Director of Hedrick Medical Center. “You must wear a mask even if you’re young and healthy. It’s not just about protecting yourself, it’s about protecting everyone around you, including your loved ones. We have to think about other people.”

As of Nov. 17, Missouri has over 254,000 COVID-19 cases and has had more than 3,400 deaths from the virus.

“In the past six weeks, we have seen multiple cases come from group activities like birthday parties, basketball tournament, wedding, etc.,” Burchett said. “Of course, we also had a terrible outbreak at the Baptist Home that caused the death of 9 people and multiple cases of residents and staff.”

Hedrick Medical CNeter also issued a plea to area residents to wear masks.

“This is a serious matter,” said Steve Schieber, CEO of Hedrick Medical Center. “The rising number of cases and hospitalizations affects the availability of hospital beds. Kansas City metro hospitals have reached max capacity and we want to prevent that from happening here to ensure we have space and staffing available for those who truly need it.”

She also noted that school officials have worked hard to contain the spread of COVID-19.

“At the beginning of the school year, we saw clusters of cases in most schools in the R-II district.  With the diligence of administration making seating charts and quarantining students, plus shutting the school down for a few weeks, the cases in schools all but disappeared,” she said.  “We feel like this was due to the value of contact tracing and quarantine efforts.”

The best way to prevent the transmission of the virus is utilizing the safety measures that have been suggested since March. 

“Residents should follow the same prevention measures we have been educating about all along.  Wash hands frequently, stay home if you are sick, if you have symptoms get tested, wear a mask in public when you can’t socially distance yourself, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, stay home if you can and follow quarantine and isolation guidelines provided by the health center,” she said. “We have encountered people being sick and not getting tested because they don’t want their activities limited by quarantine and isolation.  Of course, we also have people not being 100% truthful about their close contacts or activities because of peer pressure, or not wanting to isolate themselves.”

Flu season can be a dangerous time for the elderly and those with underlying conditions. Missouri state health officials recommend all residents get a flu shot this year to try and avoid the potential of getting both the flu and COVID.

“We have been encouraging people to get their flu shot this year even if they don’t normally, as some studies show it can help with the body’s response to COVID, and due to the possibility of a person fighting two deadly viruses at a time—probably not a good outcome.,” Burchett said.

The health center does have the vaccine available. Area businesses are encouraged to call and schedule a time for a nurse to come to their establishment to administer the flu vaccine to their employees. Businesses can call Nurse Hailey at 660-329-2303.

“It’s a little early to tell, but we hope that prevention measures like social distancing, mask-wearing, etc. will help keep flu numbers down this year,” Burchett added.

Health care staff across the country have faced long hours, staff shortages and in some cases access to needed medical grade materials. Burchett said staff at the health center has been working long hours to ensure the safety of area residents and the sharing of the most up-to-date information.

“The continuing multitude of cases we have been seeing since August have taken a toll on health center staff due to not only the increased workload of contact tracing each case, but the blatant disregard for prevention measures in the public like wearing masks or face coverings, continual criticism of our efforts, and disrespectful comments on our social media accounts,” she said.  “On the opposite end of the spectrum, we were pleasantly surprised to be named Grand Marshalls of the Holiday Parade after 15 different people nominated us, so that really boosted our morale to know there are more people than we think that support our efforts.”