By Clay Coleman
MEXICO—Last Saturday, the Audrain County Health Department reported its first case of COVID-19 in the county. The unnamed individual is currently self-quarantined and staying at home.
“Once we received word that the test was positive, I issued an order to self-quarantine,” said ACHD Medical Officer Sandra Hewlett in a phone interview, “and we quarantined the individual’s family as well.”
But isolating isn’t the only steps Hewlett and her department have to take after identifying a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the county.
“After we isolate the individual, we do what we call contact tracing,” said Hewlett. “We not only find out where they’ve been, but we notify every person the individual has come into contact within the last 72 hours.”
Hewlett added that she considers the individual a “low transmission” risk.
“The person has not been out of their house for the last six days,” she said.
“We are an agricultural community, with more open spaces and less population density than other counties in the state,” Hewlett noted. “That helps explain why our numbers are lower than in other counties.”
But as Audrain County records its first case, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is looking to reopening the economy with the “Show Me Strong” recovery plan.
Based on expanded testing capacity, a more substantial reserve of PPE equipment, the monitoring and expansion of health care facilities, and improved optics on predicting future outbreaks, Parson said he is preparing for a gradual reopening of the state starting May 4.
“We will be reaching out to the business community, as well as local county and city government, to put plans into place for May 4, and begin the first phase of reopening Missouri,” Parson said.
Hewlett said she is prepared for the reopening of Audrain county.
“Counties like ours will be one of the first reopened in the state,” she said. “I’m currently writing mitigation plans for businesses reopening during the different phases of the process.
“This virus will still be with us for the rest of the year,” Hewlett said, “but if we take a measured approach, work with our small business owners, then reopening Audrain County will come on time.”