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Missouri health officials have issued a "Hotspot Advisory" for three south-central Missouri counties along the Interstate 44 corridor. Officials cited a rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations there as the catalyst for their advisory, which was issued Monday. 

The three counties are Laclede, Pulaski and Phelps. 

Fort Leonard Wood is in Pulaski, while the Missouri University of Science and Technology is in Rolla, which is in Phelps County. 

According to the advisory from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, cases in Laclede, Phelps and Pulaski counties are elevated with 217, 294 and 210 respectively in the past two weeks. Disease spread from southwestern Missouri to the east along the Interstate 44 corridor was expected and is expected to continue, according to officials.

For comparison, the Franklin County Health Department reported 115 new cases in the past two weeks. The next update from the health department will be released on Friday.  

The rising cases generally reflect low vaccination rates and the spread of the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus, health officials said Monday. 

The percentage of people who have completed vaccination in each of the three counties is below the state average of 40.2 percent. Laclede County, 24.3 percent, is the lowest among the three counties. Phelps has 31.3 percent vaccination and Pulaski has 32.5 percent. 

The state health department reported Monday that Franklin County's vaccination ranks among the state's highest with 40.1 percent of the county's residents completing their vaccination. An additional 4.5 percent have received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. 

More than 1,200 doses have been administered in Franklin County in the past week compared to 447 doses in Pulaski, 580 doses in Laclede and 429 doses in Phelps. 

According to the state health department, at least 70 percent to 80 percent of the people, depending on the type of variant virus need immunity to provide the best chance of minimizing spread within a community.