Michele Skalicky | KBIA

Michele Skalicky

Michele Skalicky has worked at KSMU since the station occupied the old white house at National and Grand. She enjoys working on both the announcing side and in news and has been the recipient of statewide and national awards for news reporting. Michele enjoys hiking, camping, taking an active role in her two girls’ activities and caring for her family’s two guinea pigs, two cats, two dogs and five fish.

You won’t be able to float, hike, camp or take part in any other recreational activities at the Buffalo National River in Arkansas in the near future.   The park is now closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.  That closure includes the river, trails, open spaces and campgrounds. 

Buffalo National River spokesperson, Cassie Branstetter, said it was a decision that wasn’t made lightly.

An Ozark man, laid off from his job in the restaurant industry due to the coronavirus, has changed his focus from working to bringing joy to essential personnel in these trying times. 

Andy Goessmann and his wife, Taylor, started the fundraiser around the time the stay at home orders were being put into place to curb the spread of the coronavirus.  It's called "Thank You, Springfield Front Line!  Lunch on Us!"

State parks in Missouri will be closed as of 5 p.m. Thursday, April 2, to address overcrowding as the coronavirus continues to spread in the state.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources plans to close Castlewood, Elephant Rocks, Watkins Woolen Mill and Weston Bend State Parks.  St. Joe State Park will close the off-road vehicle riding area.

The closures will last until April 30.

Missouri DNR director, Carol Comer, said, as conditions and recommendations change, they’ll make additional closures as needed. 

Mercy Health Foundation is donating $30,000 to help support the local homeless services support system as the number of cases in Greene County continues to increase.

There are at least 48 cases in the county, including four deaths. 

In a building that’s 126 years old, modern technology will allow Springfield City Council to continue holding public meetings during the coronavirus pandemic.

From here on out, meetings will be held electronically to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The only person in Council Chambers at Historic City Hall during the April 6 meeting will be Mayor Ken McClure and an occasional staff member.  All other council members will be joining in via Zoom from the safety of their homes.

Missouri State University students return to class Monday, March 30, but all classes will be online.  The school ceased in-person classes to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Most campus buildings are closed, but the open-access computer lab in Meyer Library and Magers Health and Wellness Center are open.

MSU has established a student success hotline.  An MSU support team will answer any questions students might have.

The MSU Counseling Center has suspended face-to-face appointments and is now providing tele-counseling sessions.

CoxHealth Heart Center, a stand-alone clinic in Branson, is expected to re-open Monday, March 30, after an extensive cleaning.  CoxHealth officials say that’s after an employee of the center tested positive for COVID-19. 

The Taney County Health Department and CoxHealth are contacting clinic employees and members of the public who may have had close contact with that person during a three-day period, according to a statement from the hospital.

Teachers across the Ozarks are finding innovative ways to connect with their students since the coronavirus is forcing them to be apart.

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This week, teachers from Willard Central Elementary formed a car parade and drove through their students’ neighborhoods.  Cars bore messages such as “We Miss U,” “Keep Reading” and “You R World Changers.”  Kids drew messages for their teachers with sidewalk chalk and held up signs.  Both students and teachers waved at each other from a safe distance.

There’s now a separate entrance at Cox South in Springfield for anyone with symptoms of COVID-19.

A large white tent has been erected along the drive-up area in front of the Emergency Department.  The alternate triage and treatment site is for patients who go to the ED with COVID-19 and other respiratory symptoms. 

CoxHealth officials say the new entrance is for patients with mild symptoms. 

Mercy Springfield opened a forward triage facility at its ER Monday for patients with symptoms of COVID-19.

There were 23 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, in Greene County as of March 25 at 12:30 p.m.   Three of those patients died.  They were all residents of Morningside of Springfield, an assisted care facility.

Seven patients required hospitalization.  Five are no longer ill and have been released from isolation.

Find out the latest numbers and other information about the coronavirus in the Ozarks here

As residents of Greene and Christian Counties stick closer to home due to a mandate, there’s a certain population that’s been doing that since the coronavirus first showed up here.  They are senior citizens and others at high risk for COVID-19.

"This is a very difficult time, particularly for our seniors, because this isn't just a physical health crisis, but it's also really become a mental health crisis," said Chelsea Gilliam, a clinical psychologist at Burrell Behavioral Health.

Greene and Christian Counties are now under stay-at-home orders.  They went into effect just after midnight.

Citizens should stay at home with a few exceptions.  Those include going to a job that’s deemed essential, getting medical care or essential items such as medicine and groceries and caring for loved ones.  Getting out to exercise is allowed, but you need to maintain a six-foot distance from others.

The order goes through 11:59 p.m. on April 24 in Christian County.  In Greene County, it's in effect for 30 days.

Several schools in southwest Missouri, including Springfield, are staying closed through April 24.
 
SPS says the ongoing spread of COVID-19 in the region “requires school districts to be flexible and make decisions that are in the best interest of public health.”
 
Area schools that will be closed through April 24 are:  Ash Grove, Blue Eye, Branson, Clever, Fair Grove, Fordland, Forsyth, Hollister, Kirbyville, Logan-Rogersville, Marionville, Mark Twain, Marshfield, Nixa, Ozark, Reeds Spring, Republic, Sparta, Springfield, Strafford, Taneyville,

Missourians who receive Food Stamps and whose certifications are due in March, April or May, will have their benefits extended.

The Department of Social Services has been granted a waiver from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service to extend SNAP certification periods by six months.  That will prevent Food Stamp benefits from ending during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to DSS.

The department is also waiving all work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents through the end of the federal emergency COVID-19 declaration.

The first presumptive positive case of COVID-19 in Joplin has been confirmed.  To protect the patient’s right to privacy, identifying information will not be provided, according to the Joplin Health Department. As part of the regular practice of disease investigation, the health department will notify people who have had contact with the patient. This does not appear to be a travel-related case, health official said.

Stricter measures to control the coronavirus are now in place in Branson.  In an emergency special meeting Monday, the Board of Aldermen voted to restrict non-essential business operations, public and social gathering and forcing social distancing by individuals. 

The vote was five to one on the first reading and five to one on the second and final reading.  Alderman Kevin McConnell was the lone ‘no’ vote both times.

Dickerson Park Zoo wants everyone to feel connected to its animals even though the facility is closed due to the coronavirus.

The zoo is encouraging kids and adults to write letters to zoo animals. Zoo spokeswoman, Joey Powell, says as many letters as possible will be shared with the animal recipient through Facebook videos.

The City of Springfield and Greene County are working on stricter measures to control COVID-19.  Those are expected to be announced Tuesday, according to local government officials.   This comes after the Springfield-Greene County Health Department announced the county’s first death from the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

Health department director, Clay Goddard, said one of four Springfield assisted living facility residents who tested positive for COVID-19 passed away Monday.  The person was a woman in her 80s who lived at Morningside of Springfield Assisted Living.

Parks and trails operated and maintained by Branson Parks and Recreation are now closed to the public.  Branson Parks and the City of Branson made the decision to assist in preventing the spread of COVID-19, according to a news release.

City and Park officials called it a difficult decision.  They said it was made as “the City of Branson continues to try to do their part to assist public health care officials in preventing potential exposure to this dangerous virus.”

A private blessing was held Monday morning for a forward triage facility at Mercy Hospital Springfield. 

The new facility is located just outside the hospital’s north emergency entrance.  It opened right after the blessing and is being used to quickly provide help and masks for those who think they might have COVID-19, according to hospital officials.

Mercy is postponing all non-urgent imaging services in anticipation of a possible influx of COVID-19 patients, according to hospital officials.

Starting today these services will be postponed:

Springfield-Greene County Health Department director, Clay Goddard, is encouraging citizens to stay home if at all possible as city and county officials decide what steps to take next.

In a message sent Monday, Goddard said they’re “actively in conversations with local and area county officials to map out” the next step.

There’s already a county-wide order, according to Goddard, which closely mirrors shelter in place orders that went into effect Saturday in St. Louis and Kansas City.

CoxHealth’s Board of Directors has established a $1 million fund to help CoxHealth employees as they help care for the community.

According to CoxHealth, the Employee Heroes Fund “will be used to assist employees in offsetting the situations created by their time and service during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Employees may apply for help for things like childcare, internet service to keep children connected to school, meal support, accommodations if they are required to stay close to the hospital, medications or other needs directly related to this crisis.  

Closures due to the coronavirus will now include park playgrounds and play equipment in Greene County.

The Springfield-Greene County Park Board is closing those and any high-density gathering areas until further notice to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Anxiety is high right now as the coronavirus continues to spread in the U.S.  People are avoiding close contact with one another, and that can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Dr. C.J. Davis, president and CEO of Burrell Behavioral Health, said at a press briefing Friday those feelings are normal.  “We’re anticipating the worst…we’re living with fear in the background every single day.”

Update:  The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is reporting 14 cases of COVID-19 in Greene County.  There are three other confirmed cases in the Ozarks:  One each in Camden, Christian and Jasper Counties.

A person who had been identified as having COVID-19 in Christian County Wednesday actually lives on the other side of the border—in Greene County.  That means Greene County now has seven confirmed cases of COVID-19, and Christian County has one.

Nixa’s Mayor has banned public gatherings of 10 or more people in a single space or room.  Mayor Brian Steele made the decision after two cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed in Christian County.

The order doesn’t include funeral homes, educational institutions, daycare facilities, places of employment, grocery stores and retail stores. 

Restaurants are still allowed to offer food delivery, pickup and drive-thru services.

CoxHealth will begin offering two weeks of paid time off to employees in case they’re unable to work due to COVID-19 confirmation or exposure.

A local bank has donated several thousand dollars toward a childcare program that’s being set up in Springfield for children of healthcare workers. 

Central Bank, Central Trust Company and the Ball Foundation have pledged the first $20,000 toward an effort to raise money for the service that is being planned at the Discovery Center of Springfield.

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