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KBIA’s Health & Wealth Desk covers the economy and health of rural and underserved communities in Missouri and beyond. The team produces a weekly radio segment, as well as in-depth features and regular blog posts. The reporting desk is funded by a grant from the University of Missouri, and the Missouri Foundation for Health.Contact the Health & Wealth desk.

Adair County Officials Worried by Uptick in Younger COVID Patients, Vaccine Hesitancy

Adair County Health Dept Logo.jpg
Adair County Health Department
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Adair County has seen a steady increase in COVID-19 cases since the end of June – with more than 50 active COVID-19 cases in the county for the first time since February.

“At the end of May, we were down to just, I think one day we were actually down [to] zero cases, and then here comes the Delta variant,” Jim LeBaron, the administrator of the Adair County Health Department said. “This morning, we already had nine new cases, and so, we're getting awfully close to 60 now. But, you know, that's a really big climb for us from zero to 60.”

And LeBaron said the patients are younger – about half of all active cases are people between the ages of 11 and 30, and one case was a 12-day old infant whose mother tested positive for COVID-19.

"I would say probably 65% of our population is opposed to getting vaccinated, and so, no one should be surprised that we’re having these variants."
Jim LeBaron, Adair County Health Dept. Administrator

According to the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services, just 33.3% of the county is fully vaccinated and 36.2% of the community has initiated vaccination. LeBaron said he doesn’t see that number increasing much anytime soon.

“Up in Adair County, our ability to hit herd immunity is not going to happen, in my opinion,” LeBaron said. “Right now, I would say probably 65% of our population is opposed to getting vaccinated, and so, no one should be surprised that we’re having these variants.”

The county also had two deaths last week, including a 30-year-old unvaccinated woman with some underlying health conditions.

Lori Guffey, the assistant administrator and the communicable disease nurse at the Health Department, said she’s concerned because they’ve been seeing quite a few fully vaccinated folks testing positive and “their symptoms are not mild. They're not.”

Which, she added, has them concerned that the virus is continuing to mutate.

“It seems like that the mutations are going to be a problem, and so I would say people need to do the things that they need to do to make themselves safer,” LeBaron said. “And that would include social distancing, it would include a discussion with family members on where you should we be gathering, if at all.”

Guffey said that she and other contact tracers have run into a lot of “virus fatigue” and resistance from those they are calling – people refusing to give them names of those they’ve been around, not wanting to enter isolation, and not wanting to hear about the vaccine.

"Who are we spreading this virus to? Are they people with compromised immune systems? Are they people that are going to get in trouble with COVID-19?"
Jim LeBaron, Adair County Health Dept. Administrator

She said she understands the fatigue, and LeBaron added that he hopes people think about others around them – because while you may get COVID-19 and recover fine, “if people can spread the disease before they have symptoms, you know, who are we spreading this virus to? Are they people with compromised immune systems? Are they people that are going to get in trouble with COVID-19?”

For the time being, LeBaron said they will continue to offer the vaccine to anyone who wants it, and he’ll be at this week’s NEMO Fair to pass out information and sign people up for vaccination.

“Lori and I are not trying to be fear mongers, ‘Oh, my gosh, we have this virus,’ but we're just trying to be sensible,” LeBaron said. “I mean, the name of the game, at this point, is keep people from entering the hospital, being on a ventilator, and dying. We're trying to save lives.”

According to a press release “Staff from the Adair County Health Department will be in the Multipurpose Building at the NEMO Fairgrounds from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., July 19-23, during the NEMO Fair. People can complete a form, specifying which vaccine they would like to receive. The Health Department will subsequently call anyone who wants a vaccine to schedule a time and location to receive one.”

Guffey said that, at this time, they’ve conducted 4600 contact tracing cases, and the health department, through curbside vaccinations, mass immunization efforts and outside clinics, has given close to 10,000 vaccine doses.