Terre Banks

Terre Banks

Webster County passed the century mark this week with its running total of COVID-19 cases. At press time Tuesday, 102 total positives were reported, up from 84 cases last week at this time.

Of the 102 total cases, 38 are currently active, 63 are recovered and one has died, according to the Webster County Health Unit COVID-19 dashboard. The Health Unit told The Mail that one patient is currently hospitalized.

The total number of negative tests conducted in the county stand at 2,798, up from 2,422 reported last week. These include both antigen and antibody tests.

Terre Banks, nurse administrator of the Webster County Health Unit, told The Mail that the rise in cases has been steady in Webster County. "We are definitely doing an upward curve at this point," she said.

When asked for her projection of where COVID-19 infections are heading in the county, Banks said she didn't have one. "I really don’t have any expectations," she said.

She did note that Webster County is tacking about the same as nearby counties, on average. "I think we are probably right in the middle with a lot of other counties," she said.

She noted that Laclede County, which didn’t experience its first case of COVID-19 until one reported on May 8, is now well ahead of Webster, with a total of 173 cases. "Once they got their first one, it just kind of took off," she said.

The number of COVID-19-positive patients is higher in Webster’s larger neighbor of Greene County, too; there, the running total is 914.

Christian County is ahead of Webster with 188 positives. Dallas County trails Webster with 40 cases, Douglas has 47 and Wright has 54.

The Webster County Health Unit continues to recommend social distancing and the wearing of masks to combat the coronavirus, according to Banks.

"I think in any county that you go in, you're going to have those that are very diligent wanting to protect themselves and others by wearing masks and keeping social distance," Banks said. "And then you have those thinking that it's to a big deal and feeling like they don't want to wear masks because they feel like they're healthy and not immunocompromised."

But Banks said that her office is seeing more and more people contract COVID-19 when they are otherwise healthy and without comorbidities, such as diabetes or immunological diseases.

"Since it's still new, I think there are a lot of questions out there and no rhyme or reason to who it's going to affect and who it isn't."

She offered the reminder that wearing a mask protects others from ourselves, "So when they wear a mask, they're protecting you from them," she said. "So if we all wear a mask, we are considering each other and wanting to protect each other. I know a lot of people don’t agree with that. You find as many critics as there are supporters for mask wearing; it depends on where your resource is."

Banks said that there have been no nursing home cases. "We're very thankful about that; I think that would be a very bad deal all the way around," she said.

One of the groups that observes the impact of COVID-19 up close is Banks' own Health Unit staff. When asked how they were faring during the months-long crisis, Banks said that they were holding up OK.

"Overall, the staff is maintaining, staying in good spirits and just really taking to heart trying to keep Webster County healthy and safe," she said.

She added, "We tend to be task-oriented, and so we do what we need to do when we need to do it, and then as the day possibly gets slower, that's when it starts giving them more time to think about who they have talked to and what effects it's having on them and their families," Banks said.

She said that she is looking at hiring some people who can help with case investigations. "We'll probably try to get two more people in preparation for a definite upswing, which we're already seeing," she said.

She noted that she has never experienced anything like the COVID-19 pandemic before, and she is hearing the same from others who have also been in public health for many years.

Banks said that she is hearing from public health officials and others that the crisis may go into next year, if not beyond. "I hope they're wrong, and I hope I'm wrong as well," she said.

The success of schools reopening safely is going to be one big determinant of what happens with the pandemic, according to Banks. "We probably won’t see anything until the middle part of September," she said. "Everybody at the local health departments are holding their breath, to a certain degree."

She added that the virus spreads more quickly and affects more people than influenza, so she doesn’t know what to expect.

"I think that's what's hard for us at the local public health level, because we don't see a light at the end of the tunnel," she said. "We don't see an end to this right away. We try not to think about that; we try to stay focused on the task at hand and keep doing what we know to do."

Marshfield Mayor Natalie McNish told The Mail that 100 is a big number when it refers to people who have been ill in the county.

"I do wish that number were so much smaller," she said. "However, I believe Webster County citizens are kind, strong, knowledgeable, hard-working people. We will continue exercising personal responsibility to protect our family our neighbors and ourselves. And we will continue with life, just in a more alert environment."

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