Positive COVID tests spike in Bates County

By Dean Backes

Bates County and other parts of Missouri have seen a spike in their positivity rates when it comes to COVID-19 tests during the past seven days, leaving some to scratch their heads a little.

While Bates County has produced a positivity rate of 24.4 percent during the past seven days, the Show-Me State is sitting at 14.4 percent during that same time frame.

“I tell you what, you can talk until you’re blue in the face,” Jody Welston, R.N. Administrator of the Bates County Health Center said. “Until it hits people in their household or with their family, they don’t care to listen. Its very unfortunate and I hate for it to hit families, but that’s the reality now. That’s when people are going to realize that it’s real and it’s here to stay.”

Welston said of the newest cases, the health center has seen in the past few days, two or three of the positive tests came from fully-vaccinated people and the symptoms she said were mild. The rest of the positive cases were from individuals that were not vaccinated.

Greg Weaver, chief executive officer of Bates County Memorial Hospital, backed up Welston’s findings when it comes to vaccinated persons having milder symptoms.

“They don’t get sick-sick,” he said of vaccinated residents that still come down with the virus. “They may have to be admitted to the hospital to get some fluids or something like that. But they aren’t sick-sick where they need to be placed on a respirator. They seem to be milder cases.

“We had been running 7, 8, 9 percent, in that area. Below 10. So we’ve definitely doubled our rate in a smaller amount of time because we had nine or 10 percent over months and then all of a sudden, BAM, we get a 24-percent positivity rate. Since probably April, we had been down real low. Everything was looking really good.”

Weaver, whose hospital has seen 29 positive cases in 119 tests during the past seven days, said the hospital’s policy is to take more measures to protect its people once the local and state positivity rates reach 10 percent or higher. On July 14, the state’s positivity rate went over 11 percent forcing Weaver’s hand.

Weaver, who took over in March as the hospital’s CEO, said the hospital is back to social distancing and all of its caregivers are wearing eye protection. Of course, masks are still in fashion too.

Weaver said people are getting together more now. They are going on vacation and spending time in places like Springfield and Branson. He said it’s hard to tell if people are going on vacation and then bringing the virus home.

Despite the resurgence of COVID-19, Missouri and Bates county residents are still taking the vaccine at a rate in the 30s. Even healthcare workers across the state are opting out of the shots at a high rate. Weaver was reassuring, however, that most of his employees are getting the vaccine.

“If you find a state that has a low number of people taking the shots, you’ll find that it’s the same with their healthcare workers,” Weaver said. “They are leaning the same way. We’re very fortunate that 60 percent of our workers have taken it. And that was a month ago, so I don’t know where we stand now. We could be up over that. We are at a higher rate than some of the other hospitals though.”

Weaver said that making the decision on whether to get the vaccination is a personal choice. And said people need to make that decision and stick with it. But he also warns communities, big and small, they should prepare for a second surge.

While he said he doesn’t think COVID-19 will ever be stopped, Weaver was sure it could be slowed simply by doing the things we did when the virus first hit.

“There are warning signs that it is migrating north and we have an opportunity to mitigate it,” Weaver said. “We have an opportunity to mitigate it by vaccinating, washing our hands and wearing masks where its indicated.”

Although she wasn’t sure what her next step will be, Welston said the health center has a call with the county commission, the hospitals and emergency management every week.

“We all put our two cents worth in to see what we’re seeing,” Welston said. “Then we just kind of go from there.”