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It's been nearly three weeks since Greene County, Missouri reported its first confirmed COVID-19 case.  As of Tuesday, health officials have confirmed 50 positive cases in the county.

Starting on Wednesday, a Springfield lab plans to offer testing of COVID-19 for patients referred by their health care providers. Officials hope this will lessen the wait times for test results and slow the spread of the illness.

The private lab, Dynamic DNA Laboratories, confirmed with KSMU is has 4,000 test kits to distribute, and it’s already ordered 4,000 more kits.

Austin O’Reilly is the CEO of Dynamic DNA, and he spoke at a virtual press conference Tuesday in Springfield.

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.

 

The City of Nixa has dedicated a website listing tips and resources for families and businesses to get through the coronavirus pandemic.

The Missouri Academy of Family Physicians has endorsed the Medicaid expansion campaign in Missouri.

 

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.

What do you get when you mix an infectious disease doctor, a few "techies," and a physician's assistant?  Turns out, it's the winning combination for 3D printed respirators for Citizen’s Memorial Hospital in Bolivar in case the gear is needed in responding to the coronavirus outbreak.

Matt Havens, a physician assistant at CMH, worked with family and tech groups to create respirators through 3D printing. They used a design they found on the web but it didn’t work very well.

This morning, host Hue-Ping Chin speaks with Cara Erwin, community wellness coordinator with Springfield-Greene County Health Department.

Today’s discussion explores the ongoing risks and continued popularity of vaping for today’s youth.  Erwin shares the health risks and ongoing challenges related to reducing this phenomenon.

 

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.

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 inside a Springfield assisted living facility has jumped to eight, a Springfield-Greene County Health Department official said Friday.

Among those cases is a resident who died before the outbreak was discovered in the facility; she was not tested, but her case is considered an epidemiologically-linked case, according to the health department's assistant director, Katie Towns. 

The House is debating and then voting on the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package that the Senate passed earlier this week. Watch the floor proceedings live.

Jeff Houghton, host of the Mystery Hour TV show, contacted Springfield Regional Opera artistic director Michael Spyres to help with a special project earlier this week at several area independent and assisted living and nursing facilities. Michael, a major tenor soloist at opera houses around the world, is currently at home near Rogersville, and we talked on the phone yesterday about his nursing home concerts.                    

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

(cars honking)

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.

Governor Mike Parson said Thursday if he could prioritize the testing of all residents in nursing homes where there’s been a coronavirus outbreak, he would – but he says he cannot due to a shortage of tests. 

Parson was responding to a question from KSMU-Ozarks Public Radio about state protocol that currently says only those residents with COVID-19 symptoms will be tested, even in facilities where the coronavirus has been confirmed.

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.

Update 1:00 p.m. Thursday, March 26:   a fifth resident at the assisted living facility has tested positive for COVID-19 and is in the hospital, according to the Springfield-Greene County Health Department.

 

Branson’s Parks and Recreation Department will deliver essential items to city residents who are in the high-risk group for coronavirus.

 

Artists and performers are doing what they can to provide some relief during a time saturated with heavy events. For over a decade the Springfield-based late night show “The Mystery Hour” has recorded in front of live audiences, hosted by Jeff Houghton. Now, he’s hosting the show from home every weeknight. 

Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, Jeff Houghton has begun streaming daily, live episodes on Facebook from his garage, which he calls “Desperation Studios.”

 

Springfield police officers are changing how they operate as COVID-19 spreads in the city. 

As some nonprofits begin to feel the financial impact of so many closures and increased needs due to COVID-19, The Community Foundation of the Ozarks (CFO) is stepping up to help with grants.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, all Evangel University campus activities have been canceled for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester, including the theatre production that was scheduled to open this week, “Little Women: The Musical.” The six performances have been postponed by Evangel’s Humanities Department until the Fall 2020 semester “if campus operations have returned to normal by that time,” said  Paul K. Logsdon, Evangel’s Director of Public Relations and Publications. “Details are still being worked out.”

According to Joshua Best, Development & Marketing Coordinator at the Springfield Art Museum, the Museum will remain closed to the public until Tuesday, April 28, 2020 "in response to the 30 day Stay-At-Home order issued by the City of Springfield and Greene County on March 24, 2020.

"This is a further attempt," says  Best, "to assist in efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 in our community. The Museum will reassess the status of public operations on April 28."

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,

As hospitals in Italy and other hard-hit places say they've run out of space for COVID-19 patients, Cox South hospital in Springfield announced Wednesday that it's devoting an entire, new floor to patients who  may need ventilator support due to the respiratory illness.

Greene County has ordered its citizens to stay at home for 30 days, except for essential activities. Violations of the order will be considered a misdemeanor.

This comes as local hospital executives and doctors warn that Springfield’s hospitals could be overrun with cases of COVID-19 if they don’t take these extraordinary measures now.

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