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COVID transmission level high in Howell Co., but people aren’t getting as sick


The most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a high level of COVID-19 transmission in Howell County, but hospitalizations are low. 

Howell County Health Department Administrator Chris Gilliam says the fact that people aren’t getting sick enough for hospital care is a good sign — it means vaccines are working.

The CDC reports in its weekly report published Thursday that 72 new cases of COVID-19 had been identified in Howell County, an increase of 67% from the week before. On Tuesday, the health department posted that, as of Sunday, 47 cases have been counted in the county.

The test positivity rate through July 5 is 30%, an increase of 3% over the week prior. The CDC data shows that while the impact of COVID on the community is low, as measured through confirmed cases, hospital admissions and percentage of staffed hospital beds, the community transmission level is considered high, and has consistently been since June 7.

Community transmission levels are calculated using the total number of new cases per 100,000 county residents, and percentage of positive tests taken over a seven-day period. Counties with cumulative cases greater than 100 per 100,000 population or test positivity results higher than 10% for that time period are considered high transmission.

The CDC case rate per 100,000 population for Howell County is 179.48, and new COVID-19 hospital admissions are 6.5 for the last seven days. Only 2% of available hospital beds are in use for COVID patients, with about four new patients admitted in the last seven days.

In high-transmission communities, the CDC says significant measures are needed to limit contact between people, and priority is given to keeping essential community activities and services going, such as health care, transportation, food and agriculture, and schools.

According to the CDC, about 43% of the population of Howell County is fully vaccinated and has had at least one booster shot, with nearly 68% of residents age 65 and older having received at least three doses. Gilliam says that, while it would be nice to see higher numbers of vaccinated and boosted residents still, it’s apparent that the shots are doing their job.

“Vaccines are doing a very good job of keeping people out of the hospital,” he said, noting that though vaccines don’t necessarily stop people from contracting the virus, they do reduce the severity of illness.

Initial booster doses are available for anyone who has had their second COVID vaccine shot at least six weeks prior, and second booster doses are available to all Missourians age 50 and older for whom it has been at least six weeks since their first boost.

The Howell County Health Department offers free walk-in COVID vaccinations from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each Wednesday at its main clinic, 180 S. Kentucky Ave. in West Plains, and monthly in Willow Springs and Mtn. View. The next Mtn. View vaccination clinic will be held from 8:30 a.m to 3 p.m. July 27 at the satellite office  in Mtn. View Christian Church, 1505 Highway 17; the next Willow Springs clinic will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 3 at the satellite office in United Methodist Church, 311 N. Harris St.

For questions, call the West Plains office at 417-256-7070.

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