COVID-19 091920

A 75-year-old Villa Ridge man and an 83-year-old St. Clair man are the two latest COVID-19-related deaths, bringing the county death toll to three this week and 27 overall.

A total of 156 new cases have been reported this week, an average of 31 per day, bringing the county total to 1,458.

On Tuesday, Franklin County Health Department Director Angie Hittson said due to the rapid increase, the department’s capacity to investigate cases in a timely manner is no longer possible. The health department is now asking residents who test positive for the coronavirus to immediately quarantine and not wait to hear from the health department. She said that those who test positive should also begin their own contact tracing by alerting all close contacts they were with 48 hours prior to symptom onset.

On Friday, the 14-day testing positivity rate for Franklin County reached 10.7 percent.

Since Sept. 3, 3,218 county residents have received tests results, an average of 229 per day. Of those results, 332 have been positive and 2,886 negative.

Although county officials recommend wearing masks, commissioners have been adamantly opposed to a mandate, and face coverings are not required in any county buildings.

Thursday night, Presiding Commissioner Tim Brinker posted a video on the health department’s Facebook page addressing the uptick in cases, which was met with mostly negative comments.

In the video, Brinker said, “While it is not a mandate or law to wear a face covering, it is indeed recommended by our health department and our great resource of health care providers within our county and beyond,” Brinker said. “So please, when you cannot keep a safe distance, wear a face covering.”

Brinker said it is also recommended that food service providers have staff do the same if possible, especially those in close contact with clientele.

In the video, Brinker said overall hospitalizations in the St. Louis pandemic task force region remain low. “We want our hospitalizations to stay low for sure since that number is indeed critical,” Brinker said. “Community spread of the virus is here, and we need to minimize it as fast and as practical as possible.”

Brinker said testing has been “doing great,” and anyone who wants to be tested in Franklin County can get a test at one of several locations in the county.

Brinker also echoed Hittson’s comments from earlier in the week urging residents awaiting test results to immediately quarantine until results are received.

The county has purchased a large inventory of surgical masks for public distribution to businesses and agencies who are in need.

Last month, a proposed mask mandate in Washington split the city council, and the decision to not force a mandate was decided by Mayor Sandy Lucy.

Meanwhile, in Union, a proposed mask mandate was met with strong resistance from the public.

Mayor Lucy told The Missourian she has been approached about changing her mask mandate vote. “It’s just not that easy,” Lucy said.