Butler County nearing highest risk category under Missouri's public health warning

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Butler County is on the verge of falling into the highest risk category, “extreme risk,” established under a public health warning issued Friday by the governor, which also recommends all Missourians wear a mask at all times in public regardless of which risk category they fall into.

The three county risk categories established under the warning are based on positivity rates and the number of cases within the total population.

Those counties in extreme risk have seven day figures of: a positivity rate of 15% or higher; and within the population, 350 or more cases per 100,000 residents.

Butler County’s rate stood at 39.9% Friday, according to Missouri’s Show Me Strong Recovery Plan COVID dashboard. It was at 33% as of Monday afternoon, based on a seven-day rolling average.

The number of cases per 100,000 residents was 320.2 Monday.

The county must meet both criteria to fall in the highest risk category, said Butler County EMA Director Robbie Myers.

“The positivity rate is showing, per state policy, when it’s over 15%, there’s a strong presence of it community-wide among those not being tested,” Myers said.

Once a county moves into a specific risk category, it can move down after two consecutive weeks of meeting the lower category’s criteria.

Gov. Parson’s warning sets “expectations for all individuals living and/or working in Missouri and for our local jurisdictions,” but does not issue a lockdown.

“We do not need to lockdown our communities if people do the right things to fight the spread of the virus,” the warning states.

Counties in Category 1, the highest risk category, should limit social groups to 10 or fewer people. Counties in category 2 are asked to limit social groups to 25 or less, and in category 3 to maintain a six-foot distance when in a group.

Category 1 also says masks are strongly advised in all offices and businesses where social distancing is not possible. Categories 2 and 3 advise masks in all offices and businesses with 10+ people where social distancing is not possible.

Category 2, critical risk, would include counties experiencing a positivity rate of 10-14%.

Category 1, serious risk, is for counties with a positivity rate of 5-9%.

Businesses across the state have been advised to:

Modify physical workspaces to maximize and maintain social distancing.
Develop an infectious disease preparedness and response plan, including policies and procedures for workforce contact tracing when an employee tests positive for COVID-19.
Monitor workforce for indicative symptoms. Symptomatic people should not physically return to work until cleared by a medical provider.
Develop, implement and communicate about workplace flexibilities and protections, including: Encouraging telework whenever possible and feasible with business operations; Working in phases and/or split shifts, if possible; Limiting access to common areas where personnel are likely to congregate and interact; and Ensuring that sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance.

The warning also says residents should minimize travel outside Missouri and encourages those planning to travel for the holidays or gather for the holidays to self-isolate as much as practicable in advance.