Update – after press time, Oak Hill R-I reported the school would be closed starting today (Sept. 29), due to the number of students and staff quarantined. The district will reopen Monday, Oct. 12.

Dent County Health Center reported the county’s total confirmed cases of COVID-19 stood at 155 as of noon Monday. Of those cases, 32 are active, four are hospitalized and two deaths were reported in the past week.

The county previously had a 15 percent increase in cases over seven days, earning a spot on the list of the top 10 counties in Missouri for percentage increase. At that point, the county had a 37 percent rise in cases, from 67 to 92, according to the DHSS dashboard.

As schools headed back to session in late August, it was forecast that numbers would increase.

On Aug. 15, the health center was investigating five cases, bringing the county-wide overall total to 23. School began Aug. 24 in all districts in Dent County, and by Sept. 8 the health center had 57 confirmed cases. Of those cases, 20 were active. By Sept. 16, eight days later, total cases reached 106, with 37 active. Four people were reported hospitalized.

The numbers change daily, if not hourly sometimes, as new cases are reported, according to Dent County Health Center Director Kendra Mobray. Her and the staff must trace each positive as it is reported.

“Working a positive case takes anywhere from one hour at a minimum, up to seven hours, depending on the number of close contacts, time of day and amount of staff working the case,” said Mobray.

On average, one case takes about two hours. The center is handling hundreds of calls with questions pertaining to the pandemic and its regular service in the midst of working cases.

After all contacts and cases have been reached, the case has to be documented in the electronic record. Three nurses, including Mobray, complete those late in the evening or at night after regular business hours, when the phone calls stop.

The health center recently added a part-time nursing position and a weekend nurse to assist with contact tracing on the weekends. A part-time clerk position is still available.

“With flu season around the corner, we had to develop a plan that would aid us in increasing flu vaccines, but still allow time for COVID response,” said Mobray. “We realize this is an inconvenience to many people. These changes are temporary, and we have not ceased any services that aren’t available elsewhere.”

As of Monday afternoon, county schools reported the following information:

• North Wood R-IV and Green Forest R-II, have zero reported cases for students or staff.

• Oak Hill R-I had zero cases until over the weekend. On Sunday, Luann Jadwin, Oak Hill superintendent, was contacted about a positive case of a staff member. The positive case and one other staff contact are in quarantine until Oct. 3.

• Dent-Phelps R-III reported three staff members and one student have tested positive.

• Salem R-80, which encompasses the elementary, upper elementary, middle and high schools, has had 16 positive cases. Over 75 have been tested, and the district had 120 staff and students quarantined as of Friday.

Various athletic teams, clubs and other extracurricular programs have seen the ripple effect of quarantines and positive cases. Games have been cancelled or rescheduled or players have been quarantined, adding to the chaos that the school year is already enduring under COVID-19 protocols and guidelines.

The Salem Marching Blue is not having a regular competitive marching season this fall, but has performed at Salem High School football games.

Statewide demographics, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, show 29,303 positive cases for ages 10-24, accounting for over 23 percent of the 123,400 total cases in Missouri.

In Dent County, age breakdowns are 0-18: 15 cases; 19-30: 17 cases; 31-40: 33 cases; 41-50: 22 cases; 51-60: 24 cases; 61-70: 18 cases; 71-80: 8 cases; 80+: 9 cases, according to a report provided by the Dent County Health Center.

Salem Memorial District Hospital restricted visitors beginning in March. The visitor policy was changed June 15. Changes only applied to acute care, emergency room and outpatient surgery. Patients were allowed one visitor per day, visitors had to be 18 years of age (or older) and patients under the age of 16 were able to have two parental visitors each day.

SMDH changed its visitor policy again on Aug. 14, allowing no visitors in the hospital.

Exceptions are made for end-of-life patients and extenuating circumstances.

Nursing homes, care centers and other group-type homes have had limited visiting hours since March. Some have opted for outdoor visiting times to allow family members access to their loved ones.

Mobray expressed appreciation for the support and positive feedback the health center has received from the community.

“We do realize these times are trying and not everyone agrees on the response efforts we are taking. Please understand that the guidelines we follow are directly from the CDC and Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, and we will continue to do so. Our focus is on prevention and mitigation of the virus and our top priority is public health,” said Mobray.