Health officials seeing spike in COVID cases locally

JOPLIN/NEOSHO, Mo. – COVID-19 cases are beginning to spike across the area above what health officials expected following graduations and Memorial day. We spoke with area health officials about what they’ve seen compared to the last few weeks.

Freeman Hospital in Joplin has reported a jump in COVID related hospitalizations. As of May 28th, Freeman had 8 COVID patients, now, they’re at 23. Mercy says it’s the same for them. Mercy’s Infection Control Specialist Donna Stokes says “Over the last week, week and a half, we’ve seen that increase significantly.”

Mercy’s numbers went from single digits to about 21. Donna Stokes says there’s a number of factors they believe are going into the increase. “We have had graduation, we are now kind of approaching where we would be concerned because of parties and get together’s over Memorial Day.”

The spike in cases is being felt in county reporting as well. In Newton County, just a few weeks ago, they had 8 active cases. Newton County Health Department Administrator Larry Bergner says “Right now we’re at about 86 active cases, so we have seen a spike in our case numbers and they appear to be unvaccinated individuals for the most part.”

Stokes says the increase is concerning. “The majority of our in-patients are not vaccinated and that is something that we would still very much encourage that hasn’t been fully vaccinated to consider.” Bergner adds “The problem that I see is that we still are very low in our vaccination rates and so we still want to encourage everyone to be vaccinated because that is the way out of the pandemic.”

Bergner is hopeful that seeing the spike will encourage more people to step up and get vaccinated. “I think that’s one reason that we’re seeing this spike is we just don’t have the population vaccinated that we need to have to get to that herd immunity and then we would see a vast decline in the Coronavirus at that point.”

Mercy officials say with the vaccine open to those ages 12 and up encourage those wanting a vaccine to come to one of their daily walk-in clinics.