Local health official, Missouri Governor respond to task force recommendations

NEWTON COUNTY, Mo. – The White House COVID-19 Task Force recommends Missouri look at implementing mask mandates. The report came out August 9th listing Missouri as a “red zone” state which also had Jasper and Newton counties in “red” and “yellow” zones.

The task force report says at the time it was issued, Missouri was a “red zone” for Coronavirus cases, which was indicating more than 100 new cases per 100,000 population the week prior to the report. The report was released by a Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus crisis, which released all reports from June 23rd through August 9th.

The report recommended mask mandates for the yellow and red zone counties, which included Jasper and Newton counties. Newton County Health Department Administrator Larry Bergner says things are better now than they were then. “I keep track daily, monthly of how many total cases we have and the difference in the previous days number and the current cases and we have been in a steady decline on current cases since mid-July.”

Bergner says he has numbers up to Tuesday of this week. “We were at 120 current cases in Newton County, which is an all-time low, our high was 423 active cases and that was July 22nd.”

The report recommended officials close bars and gyms, and implement a state wide mask mandate, however, Bergner feels people should be able to make that choice themselves. “We don’t need to punish everybody in the state whenever some areas aren’t doing bad at all in regard to numbers, I think that’s where we need to rely on our local health officials to decide what position the locality is in whether to mandate or not to mandate, but I would much prefer leaving that decision to our local businesses and then let the public decide if they want to frequent those places or not.”

But he does agree, we still need to play it safe. “Certainly we need to continue to take precautions until we have that vaccine and are confident that our population is vaccinated against the virus, we need to take every effort to lower our risk.”

We reached out to the Governor’s office who provided this response saying quote “Governor Parson and his administration have worked extremely hard gathering Missouri based data to make decisions. A ‘one size fits all’ approach does not fit Missouri. Governor Parson supports wearing a mask, especially if you cannot social distance.”

The response adds that during a press briefing with Dr. Birx from the White House she addressed the mask issue. The Governor’s office says she stated very clearly she respected the Governor’s stance on his statewide mask mandate.

You can read the entire August 9th report by clicking here.