The Franklin County Health Department (FCHD) reported eight deaths Friday, Nov. 6, the highest number of deaths reported in a 24-hour period since the pandemic began. The death toll for COVID-19 in the county now stands at 57.

Those who were reported to have lost their lives due to COVID-19 include a 67-year-old woman from Gerald; an 83-year-old woman from St. Clair; an 83-year-old man and a 77-year-old man, both of Union; a 79-year-old manfrom Pacific; an 82-year-old man, a 77-year-old woman and a 94-year-old woman, all of Washington. 

Presiding Franklin County Commissioner Tim Brinker — who serves as the public information officer for the county health department regarding the COVID-19 pandemic — said two of the deaths occurred in September, four occurred in October and two in November.

The death of Peyton Baumgarth, 13, Washington, who died Saturday, Oct. 31, due to COVID-19 complications, has not been reported yet by the FCHD.

“The state of Missouri has provided information to the Franklin County Health Department indicating that they have additional documentation for deaths within Franklin County and will be providing that to Franklin County officials over the next few days,” according to FCHD’s report Friday. 

There have been a total of 3,239 coronavirus cases in Franklin County since March, with 60 new cases reported Friday. 

Among the new cases reported are nine individuals, ages 18 and under, who have tested positive for COVID-19. Four of those were children under the age of 10, including a 9-year-old girl and 3-year-old boy, both of Catawissa; a 2-year-old boy from Pacific; and a 5-year-old girl from St. Clair. 

The health department reported that there are 12 individuals hospitalized for COVID-19 between Mercy Hospital Washington and Missouri Baptist in Sullivan. 

There are currently 56 active COVID-19 cases in long-term care facilities, which accounts for both staff and residents. 

The 10-day rolling total of new COVID-19 cases stands at 495, with a testing positivity rate over the last 14 days at 16.31 percent, and the 14-day new case average at 50.29. 

Brinker said the surge in cases the county is seeing is concerning. 

“The more cases we have, the more quarantining of folks (we have), and the less productivity and the less livelihood we have in the county of Franklin,” Brinker said, adding this also has the potential to overwhelm health care workers.

“We want to make sure we keep our residents healthy and professional services working,” Brinker said. “(We do) not (want them) overwhelmed, i.e. hospitals and health care physicians and centers.”

He added it’s important that they are able to serve their patients for both “elective and emergent items that occur health-wise.”

With Thanksgiving less than three weeks away, Brinker said the message of the health department and county administration is for residents to use “extreme caution” this holiday season.

“The health department and the administration regarding anything, be it a holiday, Sunday dinner or what have you, is that people exercise extreme caution and extreme practicum when it comes to their health risk and the risk they could potentially present to others,” Brinker said. “Keep the distance from those you don’t know and those you don’t know of their condition. Live your life, but live it in such a way to prevent and mitigate the spread of corona.”

Brinker added neither the county’s nor the health department’s message has changed on masks. “Wear a mask when you can’t be separate from people,” he said. 

The county and health department are working on their efforts in monitoring the pandemic. According to Brinker, the county is allocating 15 percent of its CARES Act funding to the health department. 

“We are working out a contract right now and are allocating the health department ... $1.8 million to contract with a professional contact case management company,” Brinker said. “Maximus, (the company) has been proven in the field to provide great results for counties, and in this effort we are looking forward to getting these guys on board and accomplished.”