Kyle Troutman: Bracing for the wave
Trouble is aíbrewiní in Barry County.
As we entered Phase II of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) recovery plan this week, we had seen only a dozen cases from March 27, when the first confirmed case was announced, to June 12 ó but now, the wave is coming.
This week alone, Barry County confirmed 21 positive cases, tripling the amount confirmed in the last two-and-a-half months to a total, excluding the one presumptive case and two antibody positives. There are 33 total cases, and 13 people have active cases and are in ordered isolation, 31 close contacts are quarantined and 13 people have recovered.
From all sources reported to the state and Barry County Health department, more than 1,400 tests have been done, accounting for almost 4 percent of the countyís 35,886 population, and I personally accounted for one of them.
An individual in my office last week talking to me about a story called me the next day saying he had tested positive. He was not symptomatic when in my office, and we kept about six feet of distance between us. However, neither of us were wearing masks, and I handled his phone while we were trying to transfer a file.
Up until last week, I had been cautious, but not as much as I should have. You donít realize how scary COVID really is until you are faced with possibly having it, and possibly infecting your family, who may possibly infect others.
I had hoped we did enough to keep me from contracting the virus, and thankfully, we did. On Wednesday, I went to the Health Department in Cassville and received a rapid test. While it is not the full nasopharyngeal test, which Iím told is exceptionally painful, the nurse did swab my nostrils rough enough to make my eyes water.
Following the test was a 10-minute wait. A long 10-minute wait. I wasnít ever truly nervous until the nurse was walking back up to my car to give me the result. Throughout my life, Iíve had quite a few this-is-it, butterflies-in-the-stomach type moments, but this one was different.
My negative test was a relief, but the experience has taught me I needed to be more careful, more vigilant and more responsible.
Do I want to be the person who infects someone else and COVID lead to a major sickness or possibly death? No. I needed to do better.
Our county has been lucky to avoid much of the sickness, but if this week is any indication, an outbreak is nigh. Certainly not helping us right now is our location, as McDonald County is over 120 cases, Newton County is over 100, and the Joplin/Jasper County is now on par with Greene County in the 200-plus range. To the south, Benton and Washington counties in Arkansas have developed more cases than the city of Little Rock. Even Lawrence County moved into a double-digit case count this week.
These are all places we as Barry County residents go to work and play, and although we are still below 40 cases, we are surrounded by regional hotspots.
Some have asked this week on our social media pages why we keep reporting it. The answer is simple ó it is in the best interest of public health. One in every five Barry County residents is 65 or older, and the median age in the county is 43. Those most at risk from COVID-19 are seniors, and many of them read our newspaper.
Whatever you think about COVID-19, its effect on the economy or its effect on personal freedoms, ultimately, you have to ask yourself one question ó is it worth the risk of someone you know in that age bracket dying because you didnít take any precautions? Again, for me, the answer to that is no.
I also do not want to see us go backward to Phase I, which is a possibility if the case count continues rising at this rate.
Real people are being tested, real people are being confirmed positive, real people are at risk and more cases are coming. Donít wear a mask for you, wear it for your neighbor. We are all still in this together, and if we follow guidelines and look out for one another, we should all make it out alive.
Kyle Troutman is the editor of the Cassville Democrat. He may be reached at 417-847-2610 or firstname.lastname@example.org.