COVID-19 cases rise in Adair County

Students take notes during an inter financial accounting lecture. The latest COVID-19 case count on Truman’s campus is 25 students and 3 employees. Photos by Emily Collins

COVID-19 cases are continuing to rise in Adair county, with Jan. 10 seeing the highest number of reported cases so far at the Adair County Health Department with a total of 58 cases, according to Adair County Health Department administrator Jim LeBaron.

Recently, Adair County has averaged about 60 cases a day, and as of Jan. 14 the total number of cases in Adair County has now reached a total of 4,927 according to the Health Department. As of Jan. 14th, there have now been 48 deaths in Adair County because of COVID-19, according to the Health Department.

Truman currently has 25 active student cases and three active employee cases.

Last semester, from Oct. through Dec. Truman’s active case counts among students stayed below 10. There has been a recent surge in cases since student’s have returned to campus.

Dr. Jordan Palmer is the medical director at Complete Family Medicine, the company that manages the Student Health Center and counseling services at Truman. Palmer said last fall there was a spike in cases, referring to Aug. 31 where there were 21 active cases among the student population, followed by cases dying down. Now cases are rising again, Palmer said. 

“Now with Delta and Omicron, which is in our area, we’re seeing a significant increase in cases at Truman. So many more positive tests [are] coming back. That’s probably two fold, one is that it’s just such a highly transmissible variant, and then what we’re seeing because of the timeline is all of those students who have just returned from winter break likely were exposed on winter break and then are manifesting disease and then that’s getting spread somewhat just like it is in the rest of the community and the rest of the nation,” Palmer said. 

“So please get tested, is what I would say, as soon as you start experiencing symptoms and then follow those guidelines,” Palmer said. 

The Student Health Center has COVID-19 testing available during their normal business hours. A student could either have a COVID-19 test during their normal nurse visit or get a rapid test done on a walk-in basis if needed. 

The Health Center will work with the Res Life to coordinate next steps such as isolation and contact tracing, Palmer said. Lori Guffey, assistant administrator and communicable diseases nurse at the Adair County Health Department, said the department is also in contact with the University if there are Truman students who test positive.

Palmer said most services being recommended to students are supportive measures such as over the counter care, rest and occasionally prescription medication. 

While testing if sick is one protocol that can help reduce the spread, there are also several other measures that should be taken. These measures include washing hands, using hand sanitizer, wearing masks and following University guidelines, Palmer said.

A lot of the spread of the virus can be attributed to the easily transmissible nature of the Omicron variant and an increase of large indoor gatherings for the holidays, Guffey said. 

“It’s another variant, it’s very contagious from what we understand,” Guffey said. “That’s why it’s very important if people are having symptoms to get tested and see if they have COVID, but it is, they say it’s more contagious than the Delta was. I think they do say that the severity of symptoms may be milder with the Omicron variant than the Delta but still it’s very concerning because it spreads very quickly.”

LeBaron said officials at the federal level predicted January would be a month with a high level of cases, a prediction which LeBaron said has proven accurate. He also said, while it’s difficult to say when cases will go back down, it will likely be at least until the middle of February before there is a decline.

When the Adair County Health Department does a COVID-19 investigation, they advise the person to stay away from others for five days and then if there are no symptoms, resume normal activities while wearing a mask for the next five days in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, Guffey said. 

LeBaron and Guffey pointed out that there are also several other diseases and illnesses that are spreading rapidly, such as respiratory virus and influenza A and B. That’s why it’s important to get tested to find out which sickness they have, LeBaron said. 

“Now is the time to get vaccinated if you’re not,” Palmer said. “The students in general are going to do fine with COVID, if they get COVID, however because it’s everywhere there is still a chance that some percentage of students are not going to recover well. They may end up in the hospital or may have long standing symptoms months and months after getting COVID which are bothersome and so the best chance we have is for everyone to get fully vaccinated.”

LeBaron also said the Health Department is focusing on encouraging people to get vaccinated. They typically vaccinate 30-40 people per each clinic they do. Guffey said the Health Department has given over 11,000 doses of the vaccine so far, and LeBaron said so far they haven’t seen any serious reactions or serious side effects of the vaccine in Adair County.

There is an incentive program the Health Department is doing that has given out 300 gift cards to first-time vaccine recipients.

“We have some people that I think have been on the fence and are coming around to the idea of vaccination,” LeBaron said. “But there’s just a certain percent of our population that will not vaccinate, at least to date, for whatever reason. Whether you want to say that’s because of politics or ethics or religious affiliation or they’ve just done a lot of their own research and they’re saying ‘No, I don’t want a vaccine.’”

“There’s just a lot of unknowns right now but ultimately my goal, and I know [Guffey’s] goal also is to reduce the amount of death from COVID-19, I mean that’s the big picture, that’s what we’re trying to accomplish, and so for that reason I think the vaccine is very important,” LeBaron said. 

LeBaron said many people are looking for a “silver bullet” such as a vaccine that will completely protect you from COVID-19. While the vaccine makes you much better off, including keeping people out of the hospital and keeping symptoms mild, it doesn’t guarantee you won’t contract COVID-19.

Ultimately, it’s up to the individual to make decisions that will protect them and their families, and people should think carefully about what events they chose to go to, LeBaron said. 

“Any one thing is probably not enough but when you put them together, I think there’s things that people can do to make them much safer than doing nothing at all,” LeBaron said.

To Truman students specifically, Guffey said they should use their best judgment in areas with a lot of people, particularly inside events where there is not a lot of ventilation. LeBaron said he was in communication with President Sue Thomas and that they talked about mitigation strategies.

LeBaron said while repeating the basic mitigation strategies can make him feel like a “broken record,” ultimately it’s up to the people of Adair County to choose to follow or not follow the protocols. 

“I think it’s a team effort, you know we’ll continue to do our part, the public needs to do their part and I think we’ll get through this eventually, but there’s a lot of people that thought this was over in August, you know and here we are, [Guffey’s] got the highest numbers that she’s had in the last three years, Monday, and it doesn’t look like it’s letting up so again I would ask people to get vaccinated … ,” LeBaron said.

“Public health measures and guidelines are there for a reason, they really have shown that they mitigate the rapid spread of COVID and so I know that we want students to remain healthy, we want students to be able to remain in person through the health center, which is also the University’s hope … All of us working together as a team, the students, the faculty, the Health Center, the University, we’re all together on the same team here trying to make the university experience, [the] educational experience the best it can be for students. So, we all want to work together and follow guidelines … we’re here as a Health Center to try to help students be healthy and well, and we want them to be successful from that standpoint,” Palmer said.