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Dramatic actions to address COVID19 statewide

Missouri Governor Mike Parson addresses the media about COVID19 on March 14
[Source: Governor Parson’s Office]

Any concerns and complaints that government officials have moved too slowly in response to the growing health crisis that is the coronavirus pandemic have all but now been muted.

In a series of swift and decisive moves, elected officials including Missouri Gov. Mike Parson and County Executive Steve Ehlmann announced a series of steps to be taken on the state and local level to combat the growing threat.

Following an announcement on by President Donald J. Trump on March 13 declaring a national emergency in response to the coronavirus outbreak, and Parson announcing a state of emergency, Ehlmann declared an emergency in the county.

“This is not a time for us to panic, but to implement all strategies to slow the spread of COVID-19 in St. Charles County, ” Ehlmann said in declaring the emergency. He said he doing so “that we can access potential federal funding should the need arise.”

“Our department of public health is advising the public to not attend gatherings of 250 people or more in a single indoor space, and for persons especially vulnerable to COVID-19 to not attend gatherings of 10 or more people,” Ehlmann said.

At this time, St. Charles County is not prohibiting any events. “We are working with organizations, groups and event planners to discuss what is best for their specific event,” Ehlmann said. “When making that decision, crowd size, venue and audience age and health are considered. Any events that have been canceled or postponed in St. Charles County have been the decision of the organizer.”

The CDC has recommended that all events where more than 50 people would be gathered be canceled for the next eight weeks. This recommendation represents one of the most drastic ever from the federal agency charged with disease prevention and control.

“As governor, I have no greater responsibility than to keep all Missourians healthy and safe,” Parson said. “After further consideration, we have decided that declaring a state of emergency is the next appropriate step to protect public health.”

Parson made it clear that the executive order was intended to provide additional support and resources to the many hospitals across the state that are “overwhelmed or underprepared.” The order was not intended to shut down schools in Missouri although several of Parson’s counterparts in other states have done exactly that. The governor deferred those decisions to local school administrators.

As of March 16, Missouri had six positive tests for COVID19 and no reported deaths.

“We will continue to monitor cases of individuals with symptoms and those who have traveled in areas where COVID-19 is prevalent,” St. Charles County Public Health Director Demetrius Cianci-Chapman. “It is important for residents to keep everything in perspective and to continue good handwashing and other hygiene practices to help us keep the spread of this illness at a minimum.”

Cianci-Chapman said the county has tested eight individuals for COVID-19. Seven tests have been negative and the health department is waiting for results of one test from the state of Missouri lab. As of March 16, Missouri had six positive tests for COVID19 and no reported deaths.

Pop-up message from the Francis Howell School District website advising parents of the closing of area schools. [Source: Francis Howell School District]

School districts throughout St. Charles County will close through April 3.

It also appears that the April 3 end date could be optimistic. That would be just under three weeks from start to finish and the CDC’s latest recommendation calls for eight weeks. The statement issued by area school leaders acknowledged that this could just be the beginning.

“I cannot stress enough that, even as there are more positive cases found across the United States, the best prevention is proper handwashing,” Cianci-Chapman said. “Additionally, do not touch your face, stay away from others if you are ill, and avoid contact with those who show symptoms similar to colds and flu to lessen the spread of this illness.”

The St. Charles County Department of Public Health recommends the following:

INDIVIDUALS AND FAMILIES AT HOME:

  • Continue to monitor local information about COVID-19 in your community.
  • Practice personal protective measures (handwashing, sanitizing workspaces, etc.).
  • Continue to put household plans into action.
  • Individuals at increased risk of severe illness should consider staying at home and avoiding gatherings or other

situations of potential exposure, including travel.

SCHOOLS/CHILDCARE:

  • Implement social distancing measures:
  • Reduce the frequency of large gatherings and limit the number of attendees per gathering.
  • Alter schedule to reduce mixing, such as recess in schools and entry/dismissal times.
  • Limit inter-school/inter-childcare interactions.
  • Consider distance or e-learning/meetings in some settings.
  • Maintain a distance of 6 feet from others whenever possible.
  • Avoid handshakes, fist-bumps, hugs and kisses.

•       Consider regular health checks (temperature and respiratory symptom screening) of students, staff and visitors, if feasible.

•      Implement short-term dismissals for school and extracurricular activities as needed for cleaning and contact tracing.

•       Students at increased risk of severe illness should consider implementing individual plans for distance learning/e-learning.

ASSISTED LIVING FACILITIES/SENIOR LIVING FACILTIES AND ADULT DAY PROGRAMS:

  • Implement social distancing measures:
  • Reduce the frequency of large gatherings and limit the number of attendees per gathering.
  • Consider distance or e-meetings in some settings.
  • Maintain a distance of 6 feet from others whenever possible.
  • Avoid handshakes, fist-bumps, hugs and kisses.

•       Alter schedules to reduce mixing (stagger meal, activity, arrival/departure times).

•       Limit programs with external staff.

•       Consider having residents stay in the facility and limit exposure to the general community.

•       Limit visitors and implement screening.

•       Consider implementing temperature and respiratory symptom screening of attendees, staff and visitors.

•       Implement short-term closures as needed for cleaning and contact tracing.

WORKPLACES:

  • Encourage staff to telework when feasible, particularly individuals at increased risk of severe illness.
  • Implement social distancing measures:
  • Reduce the frequency of large gatherings and limit the number of attendees per gathering.
  • Alter schedules to reduce mixing.
  • Limit inter-work interactions.
  • Consider e-meetings in some settings.
  • Maintain a distance of 6 feet from others whenever possible.
  • Avoid handshakes, fist-bumps, hugs and kisses.
  • Limit large work-related gatherings.
  • Limit non-essential work travel.
  • Consider regular health checks (temperature and respiratory symptom screening) of employees, if feasible.

CHURCH AND FAITH-BASED ORGANIZATIONS:

  • Implement social distancing measures:
  • Reduce the frequency of large gatherings and limit the number of attendees per gathering.
  • Alter schedule to reduce mixing.
  • Limit inter-church interactions
  • Consider e-meetings in some settings
  • Maintain a distance of 6 feet from others whenever possible.
  • Avoid handshakes, fist-bumps, hugs and kisses.

•       Determine ways to continue to provide support services to individuals at increased risk of severe disease (services, meals, checking in) while limiting group settings and exposures.

•       Move large gatherings to smaller groups when possible.

For more information and updates, visit sccmo.org/COVID.

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