A 44-year-old woman in West Plains has tested positive for COVID-19, the first case identified in Howell County, said Howell County Health Department Administrator Chris Gilliam in a statement issued late Wednesday morning.

Contact tracing has begun, said Gilliam, and anyone who is believed to have been in contact with the woman will be contacted. According to the health department, she has been quarantined at home.

The Health Department urges county residents who develop flu-like symptoms such as a headache, body aches, fever or cough to stay at home and contact their health care provider. 

Residents who are not ill should make sure they have enough food, medication and other items they may need if they get ill and have to isolate themselves at home for several days, said Gilliam.

“We must be disciplined to isolate ourselves at home if we’re not feeling well,” he urged. “I know the temptation is to continue going to work or going to the store, but that will risk spreading the virus to other people in the community.” 

The city of West Plains since Friday has been under a stay-at-home order, in which nonessential businesses and activities are restricted and citizens are encouraged to avoid leaving their residences. In a FAQ on the topic made available Friday on the city’s website at, the question is posed “Should I stock up on food, necessities like toilet paper, and on medicines?”

“No,” city officials answer. “You will continue to be able to purchase these items. Stores selling necessary items like grocery stores, pharmacies and hardware stores will remain open. Please continue to buy normal quantities of these items on the same schedule you normally follow. This will ensure that there is enough for everyone.”

Anyone who is sick or unable to leave the home is asked to contact friends, family or others who can provide support; food and supplies may also be ordered and delivered to their home.

“Now more than ever, we need to band together to fight against the spread of COVID-19, and to support those in our community who become ill and need our care and assistance,” said Gilliam.

Ozarks Medical Center in West Plains has activated a 24-hour hotline for people to call with questions about COVID-19 screenings. The number is 417-505-7120.

When calling the hotline, a nurse will assess your symptoms and make a recommendation on your next step in care. In screening for COVID-19, patients must answer “yes” to the following questions to qualify for testing for COVID-19: Have you had contact with anyone who has lab-confirmed COVID-19? Have you had a fever (temperature at or above 100.4 degrees)? And, have you had a cough and shortness of breath?

If the answer is “yes” to any of the questions above, the nurse will discuss where to go to be tested. Currently, OMC offers testing at its Family Medicine clinics in Alton, Gainesville, Mtn. Grove, Mtn. View, Thayer, West Plains and Winona; and its Urgent Care Clinic in West Plains.

If someone is experiencing a medical emergency along with COVID-19 symptoms, testing is available at OMC Emergency Department, but patrons are asked not to go to the emergency room for non-emergent COVID-19 testing.

Screening is available curbside at OMC Family Medicine clinics, by appointment. At the scheduled time, pull into the indicated parking spots and call the number for the clinic on the banner.

If a person’s symptoms are not indicative of COVID-19, the nurse can make an appointment to be seen at one of the Family Medicine clinics. Patients also have the option to complete that appointment by virtual visit if they prefer to stay at home unless the provider needs to see them in person.

OMC Family Medicine clinics remain open for virtual visits and urgent needs. Call an OMC family medicine clinic for easy instructions on how to set up a virtual visit.

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Reminder people to change your furnace filters and use good quality to help clean your house air system. Thanks.

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