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Greene County Leaders Say They're Prepared If Covid-19 Is Detected

Michele Skalicky

Five people are currently being monitored in Greene County for signs and symptoms of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, according to Springfield-Greene County Health Department director, Clay Goddard.

During a press briefing Friday at the Greene County Public Safety Center, Goddard said they're in contact twice a day with those five.  The health department had already isolated people who had traveled from mainland China, to watch for signs of the virus.  Four people were tested, and the results were negative.

So far, there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Missouri.

Initially, testing took several days because the only lab that samples could be sent to was at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.  Now, with a closer lab doing testing, health officials in Greene County can get same-day results.

Goddard stressed prevention, including common-sense practices such as washing your hands well with soap and water; avoiding contact with those who are ill; coughing and sneezing into your elbow; avoiding shaking hands with others; and staying home if you're sick.  He encouraged the use of virtual care and suggested people call ahead to get advice before going to a doctor's office, urgent care or the emergency room.

As he stood surrounded by city leaders and first responders, he said he doesn't recommend buying face masks as a preventative tool.

"Because as I look at my partners here who are emergency responders and clinicians, they need face masks," he said, "and this shortage is putting them at danger."

Goddard said masks need to be reserved for clinicians or sick people who seek care in a clinical setting.

He suggested preparing for possible cases of COVID-19 in Greene County by making sure you have a week's supply of food.  And he said parents should make plans in the event schools close temporarily due to the virus.

Springfield Mayor Ken McClure assured the public that the city and county are doing everything they can to prepare for COVID-19. 

A task force was formed this week that "will review and deploy existing plans for respiratory illness response as they apply to the potential for COVID-19 to emerge in our community," according to the health department.

"This is the time now for us to begin thinking about what our response should look like," McClure said.   "I have every confidence we as a community will be able to deal with this situation very effectively."

Goddard said they're preparing for the worst but hoping for the best, and he's confident the community can get through anything.

"We are going to continue to focus on being prepared but also understand that we're going to be pragmatic about our messaging, and w'ere going to always be transparent," said Goddard.