"Even though businesses are reopening, it’s important for people to remember that we’re not done with this yet,” says Chris Gilliam, Howell County Health Department (HCHD) administrator, referring to precautions recommended to slow the spread of novel coronavirus.

“Though it’s not required, we strongly advise people wear masks when they are out in public, especially when they are in stores,” Gilliam urges.

Gilliam adds that wearing masks, regular hand washing, avoiding touching facial areas and practicing social distancing can go a long way to help slow the virus down.

“We just want people to be smart about this and use some common sense,” he says. “These measures aren’t only to protect your health, but the health of others too.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization recommend that everyone use some sort cloth face covering when out in public. To be effective, cloth face coverings must cover the nose and mouth, be secured with ties or ear loops and include multiple layers of fabric. It is also recommended that the masks be washed regularly after use.

According to the CDC and WHO, wearing cloth masks can greatly reduce the chances of transmitting the coronavirus to others.

Cloth masks are the most effective when used in conjunction with good hygiene and social distancing practices and are not to be considered a substitute for those measures. For most people, the CDC does not recommend the wearing of surgical masks or N-95 respirators as these have been deemed critical supplies to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders.


According to the HCHD, since April 1 there have only been five confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported in the county and since then, all five individuals have recovered form the disease.

“We have been really fortunate here,” said Gilliam. “But I think it has led to a false sense of security.”

Since the statewide stay-at-home order was lifted May 4, the Missouri death toll from COVID-19 has nearly doubled in just two weeks.

According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, as of Thursday, about 562 people have died from COVID-19 and over 10,000 cases have been reported. Over half of the state’s cases have come from the Kansas City and St. Louis area.

On Monday, Kansas City and St. Louis will lift their stay-at-home orders. The lifting of St. Louis’s stay-at-home order was opposed by Dr. Will Ross, of St. Louis’s Board of Health and Hospitals who said the lifting of the order had nothing to do with health, but economic concerns.

As of Tuesday, the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) estimates Missouri will have 2,348 COVID-19 deaths by Aug. 4 and that cases will peak around June 21.

The projections are made based on assumptions of strict adherence to social distancing, good hygiene practices and the limiting of large public gatherings -- if those are not followed, the death toll by August could be higher than 5,500.

Anyone experiencing dry coughing or fever, or who believes they were in contact with someone exposed to the virus is encouraged to contact their healthcare provider and seek testing.

COVID-19 testing is available in Howell County through Ozarks Medical Center Family Medicine Clinics in West Plains and Mtn. View, and Burton Creek Medical Clinic and Southern Missouri Community Health Clinic (SMCHC) in West Plains. 

OMC has set up a COVID-19 hotline at 505-7120. For Burton Creek, call 256-2111. SMCHC can be reached at 255-8464.

For more information on the state’s efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19 or for testing information visit and clicking the COVID-19 banner or call 877-435-8411.

The DHSS continues to ask those who have been tested and have not yet received results or who have been in contact with someone who has tested positive, to self-isolate, and for others to continue to practice social distancing and good hygiene and sanitation.

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