A global pandemic has resulted in a state of emergency being declared for the United States and the State of Missouri, and in Webster County, local officials have formed a COVID-19 Task Force to meet the challenge head on.

“What I’m hearing is that we are just on the cusp of where it’s going to take us,” said Terre Banks, administrator of the Webster County Health Unit. “It’s just beginning. … It’s not being contained.”

Banks noted that there is no vaccine nor any treatment for COVID-19, the illness caused by coronavirus. “Even at that, any treatment measure is just treating symptoms,” she said.

The current push, locally and nationally, is to slow the rate of illness, and that’s challenging, because people can carry the virus for a long time before they know they have been exposed — if they ever realize they’ve been exposed.

This poses a special danger for people who are elderly or who are immunocompromised.

“People are exposing people before they really realize it,” Banks said. “That’s a challenge. That’s why it’s not being contained.”

She added, “Our focus is on slowing the progress.”

Banks urged people not to go to gatherings where they will potentially be exposed to the virus or unwittingly expose others to it.

People should also wash their hands and keep their hands away from their face. They should also maintain social distancing — that is, they should put at least six feet between themselves and another.

“It’s a challenge to try to get people to take it seriously and take measures to slow it down,” she said.

Added Banks, “It’s going to take everyone to do their part so we can be in the right shape and the right mind frame. If we get positive cases here, things will certainly change. I am praying and hoping that we don’t have any positive cases, because we don’t know how they will go.”

Banks said that people need to cancel meetings that are not essential, and they should avoid unnecessary contact with others.

She concluded, “I encourage people to stay put and stay home.”

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