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Boone County reaches highest COVID-19 numbers of the pandemic: ‘The way that we’re going doesn’t look great.’

Boone County COVID-19 numbers are now at some of the highest levels since the pandemic began – both in single day new case reports and the overall number of active cases in the community.

Record levels were reached on Tuesday, as the number in new case reports was 329 and the new total active case number was 1,273.

But those records were short-lived, as the Wednesday totals were 329 new case reports and 1,578 total active cases.

According to the Columbia/Boone County Public Health & Human Services, this is "the highest number of active cases we’ve reported during the entirety of the pandemic."

Sara Humm, the public information specialist for the health department, said the last time numbers were even near this level was in November 2020.

“It's hard to kind of predict what might happen, but currently, the way that we're going doesn't look great.”
Sara Humm, Columbia/Boone County Public Health & Human Services

Humm said it’s possible these numbers will be even higher in the coming days, but it’s hard to predict because things are changing so quickly due to the omicron variant of COVID-19.

“We’ve had some of the highest that we've had throughout the pandemic in the past couple days and, of course, we'll see what the next couple of days holds,” Humm said. “It's hard to kind of predict what might happen, but currently, the way that we're going doesn't look great.”

Humm added the number of positive cases in the community is likely even higher, as well, because at-home test results are not automatically reported to the health department.

“It’s hard to tell what we don’t know,” Humm said. “At-home tests are becoming more popular, and if people don’t report those results to us, we don’t know what we’re not capturing.”

Humm encouraged folks to call when they have at-home positive results and said the health department is working on developing an online portal where people can self-report those results, but a go-live day has not yet been set.

“But, of course, even when that is available, you know, we won't be able to capture every single at-home test just because that's there's no mechanism right now to be able to do that,” Humm said.

She added that while the health department does not test people at their office, they do list information and resources on their website – including what places charge fees, bill insurance or provide free testing.

As for the number of “breakthrough cases,” or individuals, who were vaccinated and/or boosted and still tested positive, Humm said it is impossible for the health department to track and analyze those numbers, at this time, due to staff capacity.

“We have contact tracers and case investigators that are still working and doing what they can obviously,” Humm said. “But when we report hundreds of new cases a day, they just can't make that many phone calls in a day.”

The health department prioritizes contacting those who live in congregate settings, then the most recent cases, and finally mail out information to those who cannot be reached on the phone.

Humm said that there is currently no plan for a new health order from Columbia/Boone County Public Health & Human Services, but encouraged businesses to make their own decisions in regard to masking indoors.

As for keeping individuals and the community safe, Humm said to follow all CDC guidelines: wear a mask, social distance, avoid crowded areas, get vaccinated or boosted, and stay home when you’re feeling even a little bit sick.

Rebecca Smith is an award-winning reporter and producer for the KBIA Health & Wealth Desk. Born and raised outside of Rolla, Missouri, she has a passion for diving into often overlooked issues that affect the rural populations of her state – especially stories that broaden people’s perception of “rural” life.