Jon K. Rust

Jon K. Rust is publisher of the Southeast Missourian and co-president of Rust Communications.


Taking COVID-19 precautions at weddings, funerals and Thanksgiving events is vital

Cape County Covid-19 Update for Nov. 16, 2020

We are in the third wave of COVID-19 in the country. In Cape Girardeau County, the positivity rate, which indicates number of positive tests as a percentage of all tests -- more than 25 percent -- is staggering. Now is the time to wear masks, cut down on social gathering, and be sure to support the elderly in creative ways while maintaining physical distance.

This means being careful about your plans for Thanksgiving. And, for how you plan and attend events such as weddings and funerals. By now, you may have heard the rumor about two large weddings in the area turning into super spreader events. At a recent Cape Girardeau city council meeting, councilman and mayor pro tem Robbie Guard alluded to them.

I don't know about both events, but at least one of the weddings was connected to dozens of positive cases and many more exposures. Because people can infect others even when they don't appear or feel sick, it is vital to be careful and take precautions. That means downsizing events, creating social distance and wearing masks.

Last week, I sent some questions to Maria Davis, health educator with the Cape Girardeau Public Health Center. Here are her responses.

Q: Is there anything Public Health is recommending differently from past guidance?

A: The recommendations have not changed, but we emphasize that everyone avoid large and small gatherings as we move more events indoors. Your friends and family can spread the virus to you, and therefore, you should, at the very least, wear a mask when around friends, co-workers, and non-household family members.

Q: Are you able to identify any commonalities around spreading, including whether you are seeing any super spreader events?

A: The significant increase in numbers is due to people beginning to relax and not follow the guidelines. It is what I call the perfect storm. Cold weather brings people more inside, wedding season, sports tournaments, and COVID fatigue has created the major spike in cases. Halloween, small gatherings and dinner parties with friends, large events where masks are not being worn.

Spreading among household members continues to be prevalent.

The best thing you can do is follow the guidelines at all times when outside of your home, and as soon as you start having symptoms or are a known contact, you should isolate from household members. We expect that if people do not take precautions over the holidays, the spike in cases will continue, along with hospitalizations and deaths.

We hope people understand they are putting their family and loved ones at risk.

Q: What is Public Health's perspective on visiting restaurants, bars, churches and schools?

A: We want to keep our restaurants, bars, churches and schools open. We need everyone to take personal responsibility and follow CDC guidelines and particularly wear masks when at these businesses. When eating or drinking, stay 6 feet away from non-household members.

When I have eaten out with family, I sat at another table and outside when possible. When attending church, sit 6 feet away from other families and wear a mask at all times including during the service.

Q: Why is Cape County experiencing the current explosion in cases, even as it continues its mask mandate? Are people not taking the mandate seriously?

A: We think many people are wearing masks when they are out in public, at work, and within the schools and university. But when with friends, family members, and outside of work, people are beginning to relax on wearing masks.

Going to the grocery store or shops, you are usually exposed for a short time, and it's much easier to social distance. With family and friends, we usually spend extended periods of time together chatting and possibly eating and drinking without masks and within 6 feet. That makes it much more likely to spread the virus.

Q: There has been national guidance around the importance, particularly this year, of citizens taking the flu vaccine. Do you have any early information about flu prevalence in our area, and what are you recommending about the vaccine and why?

A: We always encourage getting a flu vaccine, but this year it is particularly important. We have a drive-through flu clinic every Tuesday at the Health Center from 9 a.m. -- 4 p.m. until the end of November.

You may also visit a medical provider or local pharmacy to receive your flu shot.

Any illness will cause more pressure on our health care system, and flu can lead to more hospitalizations and put health care staff at further risk.

We need our health care staff to be as healthy as possible to care for sick people with not only COVID but also other illnesses. We can easily create more hospital beds and vents, but it takes time to generate qualified nurses and doctors. As for prevalence, we have had one Cape County flu case reported at this time. There have been 251 influenza cases reported for the state, which is below average, with three of those being in the Southeast Region.

Thank you Maria. I know we're all tired of the coronavirus. But it hasn't gone away, and it won't go away until the vaccines are in wide use. Stay strong everyone, especially those sick and struggling through it. Our prayers are with you.

And remember, we're all in this together. We can do this.

Jon K. Rust is publisher of the Southeast Missourian.