By Mark Evans
Jeanette Wood, interim director of the Sate. Genevieve County Health Department broke down COVID-19 figures for the County Commission at its meeting last Thursday.
Wood had figures by zip code. The 63640 area, which includes the entire city of Ste. Genevieve and a considerable part of the county, had 130 of the county’s 212 confirmed cases. Another 31 were reported in the 63627 (Bloomsdale) zip code and 12 in 63673 (St. Mary).
Many county residents have zip codes from cities in neighboring counties.
There were three cases in 63036 (French Village), seven in 63628 (Bonne Terre), 24 in 63640 (Farmington), three in 63645 (Fredericktown) and two in 63028 (Festus), all living ithin the county.
“That’s interesting,” Presiding Commissioner Garry Nelson said. He added that he would like to see 63640 broken down between in-city and out of the city.
Wood said she would try to find out by the following Thursday.
Emergency management director Felix Meyer suggested that the Post Office’s nine-digit zip codes might be useful in this endeavor.
Wood said the would call the Postal Service to see.
Sheriff Gary Stolzer suggested that the percentage of people testing positive in each county would be a better gauge than total numbers. When that math was done unofficially earlier this month, it showed Perry County about a 2 percent infection rate and all other surrounding counties between 1.1 percent and 1.9 percent. Only Ste. Genevieve and Iron counties had been below 1 percent, Ste Genevieve County at 0.7 percent and Iron at 0.4 percent.
Of those 212 cases, 21 were active, with six probable cases.
Wood also broke the numbers down by ages. There had been 16 cases age 15 and under and just 12 cases in the 16 through 19 age group.
From age 19 through 30, there were 42 cases, while the 31 to 50 group had 59 cases. There were 55 cases for ages 51 to 65 and 28 for those 66 and above.
She also broke them into gender and likely mode of transmission.
Of the cases, 126 were female and 86 male. According to those testing positive, 39 believe they picked it up at work, 15 through travel, 18 through contact with an infected person and 80 who did not know how they contracted it.
Even more frustrating is that 27 of the 212 cases that tested positive had been asymptomatic, having exhibited to signs of illness.
She also noted that Valle Catholic Schools have had two individuals test positive and R-II schools seven. (Note: This does not differentiate between students and employees for either district.)
Wood said children are not doing a particularly good job at following CDC guidelines.
“You see those ankle-biters running around all the time,” she said.
She also discussed the face mask mandate debate with Nelson. St. Francois County had enacted one, but had almost immediately rescinded it after being threatened with a class action lawsuit.
Nelson said he had spoken with officials of the Missouri Association of Counties and the Missouri County Commissioners Association, both of whom agreed that county commissions have no legal authority to issue such a mandate.
“It falls in the Health Department’s lap,” Nelson said.
He said “we all agree” that the Health Department may issue “a strong recommendation” about wearing masks and other CDC guidelines.
He also said he felt “This county would be worse than St. Francois County,” for raising a ruckus if a strident mask mandate were established.
Meanwhile, the confusion over whether Wood would have to wait a year before assuming duties, after having served on the board that oversees the health department has everyone frustrated.
Nelson said he has been unable to get an unequivocal answer from state officials.
“We don’t want to do anything that will get our hands slapped six months down the road,” he said.
A statute was found that seems to say that any individual taking a paid position that is overseen by a board or other entity he or she was a part of must wait one year after resigning from that board before taking the job.
The Health Department sent a letter to the Commission, arguing that this was intended for lobbyists, not for positions such as this. It also argued that the Health Board was not a political subdivision.
While Ivan Schraeder, the county’s attorney, has said he believes Wood would be ineligible for one year, Nelson would like an opinion from Attorney General Eric Schmidt or Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft.
“We’ll wait until one of them steps up to the plate,” he said.
Wood repeated that she is eager to fully assume duties.
Wood also stressed the importance of getting flue shots. There is a danger of a big flu outbreak in addition to the caronavirus thsi winter. It will be hard to differentiate which is which until tests are taken.