JOPLIN, Mo. – The City of Joplin and surrounding counties have seen a spike in COVID cases. We spoke with Joplin’s health department director to find out why.
Joplin Health Department Director Dan Pekerak says over the past week and a half, the City of Joplin, Jasper, Newton and McDonald counties have all doubled the number of COVID cases compared to the start of the pandemic. “We were holding at about 10 or 11 cases here in Joplin for about a three week period, just one case every so often and then to see these kind of cases, case numbers, go up that dramatically in a short amount of time, when we look at what’s going on in those case investigations, we can see that the social distancing has just not been in place in a lot of those cases.”
Pekarek says that lack of social distancing is having serious consequences. “Instead of only having one or two contacts from a case previously, now we’re getting 10, 12, 14, 15 contacts from a case, because people are being more social, they’re being out there, they’re doing things.”
Bailey Woods lives in Joplin. He believes we started responding to the pandemic a little too early. “I think what we’re seeing now is that the cases are finally getting to our area of the country and now we’re seeing these spikes that are happening and this is when we probably should have done the closing in the first place.”
Despite that, he’s got his thoughts on what we should do now. “I think that whether we stay at where we are or scale back and make the protections more would be good, either one of those, but I think the worst thing that we could do is just release all the restrictions.”
Pekerak says it’s up to the city council to make those decisions, and his staff is working closely with them to keep them up to speed on how things are progressing.
Pekarek says there’s no ‘magic number’ of cases that would cause the city to stop the reopening process, or even reverse it. But he says the most important factor is the local hospitals’ ability to respond to the increase, and he and his staff are in daily contact with them to ensure they can handle the cases.