The number of reported COVID-19 cases in Greene County has topped 18,000.  As of Monday morning, the Springfield-Greene County Health Department’s Dashboard showed 18,012 cases and 247 deaths.

The death count hasn’t been updated since last Wednesday.  The health department moved to report on a weekly basis as of last week.

As of Monday, there were 179 COVID-19 patients in Springfield hospitals, and 47 were in critical care. 

Update:  Tracy Hill was one of two Mercy nurses to get the first coronavirus vaccines in Springfield on Monday.

Tracy Hill works in the COVID-19 unit at Mercy Springfield.  The 51-year-old fulfilled a lifelong dream of becoming a nurse just 11 months ago after working at Mercy for more than three decades.

Why did you go into nursing?

Springfield’s mask ordinance is now in place until April 9.

Springfield City Council voted unanimously Monday night to extend the mandate, which requires face coverings for anyone over age 11.  It had been set to expire on January 9.

The director of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, Clay Goddard, told council the vaccine offers hope, but the pandemic is not over yet.

"We're certainly in the home stretch, the last leg of the race," he said.  "We need to finish strong as our hospitals truly do depend on measures like this."

Two Mercy nurses have received the first COVID-19 vaccines in Springfield.  One is Tracy Hill who works on the COVID unit, and whose story you can hear as part of KSMU’s Sense of Community Series.

The other is COVID unit nurse, Wanda Brown.

Brown said it was an honor to be one of the first two people receiving the vaccine in Springfield on Monday.

Editor's note: an earlier version of this story misspelled Mr. Bryant's last name. This story has been edited to reflect that correction. 

During the COVID-19 outbreak, the category of front line workers that has received the most attention—and rightfully so—is the healthcare profession. The first ones you think of in that category are, of course, doctors and nurses. 

But there are hundreds of workers in the healthcare sector whose jobs are less visible, more behind-the-scenes.                                                                   

This week, host Erika Brame speaks with Jamie Willis, project coordinator with the Greene County Family Justice Center.

Today’s discussion explores local and national increase in domestic violence this year during the pandemic.  Willis talks about what has changed with COVID this year regarding operations.

We know that workers in the healthcare industry are truly on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. (And you’ll hear from a hospital worker this afternoon at 4:44pm.) But there are many professions that require daily contact with the public, whether or not we’re in a pandemic. People who work in retail, for example, such as grocery store workers.  This morning you’ll hear from Cyrus Baty, who describes himself simply as a “clerk” at Meadowbrook Natural Foods on 2nd Street in Mountain Grove, Missouri, a store that supplies health food, supplements, minerals, and bulk groceries.

In this tenth and final part of our series, Unsheltered, we look at how other communities are using federal CARES Act funds to shelter their homeless citizens—and ask whether Springfield might glean insights from their experiences.

Each community’s response to homelessness during the pandemic has been unique.  And in a year when extraordinary sums of money are flowing from federal CARES Act coronavirus relief funding, this has led to some creative solutions nationwide.

Eight more people have died of COVID-19 in Taney County.  They were a woman in her late teens, a man in his 50s, a man in his 70s, a man in his 80s and four women in their 80s, according to the Taney County Health Department. 

The total number of Taney County residents whose deaths can be attributed to COVID-19 is now 46, TCHD said in a news release.

So far, Springfield has managed to avoid an outbreak of COVID-19 in its homeless shelters. Not every city can say that. For example, San Diego and Colorado Springs are both dealing with outbreaks in shelters this week.

“We've been very fortunate. We haven't seen an outbreak in our population,” said Adam Bodendieck, the director of homeless services at Community Partnership of the Ozarks, which administers the local Continuum of Care mandated with orchestrating help for the homeless.

Greene County has reached another milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic, exceeding 17,000 cases.  On Thursday, the Springfield-Greene County Health Department's Dashboard showed 17,159 total cases, and 2,967 of them were active. 

There had been a 32 percent increase in reported cases in the last seven days.

Two hundred people were in Springfield hospitals with COVID-19, and 48 were in critical care.  Ninety-two of them were from Greene County.

Greene County has reached another milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic, exceeding 17,000 cases.  On Thursday, the Springfield-Greene County Health Department's Dashboard showed 17,159 total cases, and 2,967 of them were active. 

There had been a 32 percent increase in reported cases in the last seven days.

Two hundred people were in Springfield hospitals with COVID-19, and 48 were in critical care.  Ninety-two of them were from Greene County.

Narcan is now available for free in Taney and Stone Counties.  The drug temporarily reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.

Narcan is available there now because of a partnership between the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Community Distribution Program and local treatment and recovery support organizations, according to CoxHealth Branson.

The drug does not replace medical treatment for an overdose. If it is administered, 911 should be called immediately.

“Get a job, you lazy bum!”  That phrase—or a colorful variation of it—is something many homeless people in Springfield have heard before.

So for this segment, we’re going to hear from three men who are trying to do just that:  get a job...while experiencing homelessness during a pandemic.

Struggle to obtain official documents

The first person is 21-year-old River Herron. On the night before Thanksgiving, he was huddled under a blanket with a friend outside a building downtown.

In this week's STEM Spots, host Dr. David Cornelison talks with three physics students at Missouri State Unviersity on their plans for the future.

Copyright 2020 KSMU. To see more, visit KSMU.

The Springfield-Greene County Health Department will report COVID-19 deaths weekly instead of daily. 

Public health officials in a news release cited an increasing number of COVID-19 deaths for the change.

Numbers will be updated every Wednesday, beginning December 16, for the previous seven days.  And, according to the department, the Dashboard will include more data on deaths, as well.

Health Department officials said that reporting weekly numbers will provide the public “a more comprehensive and consistent view of trends with those lost to COVID-19.”

On the cold morning of Monday, November 23, Laura Schaeffer was at a drop-in center for the homeless in central Springfield. The National Weather Service confirms the temperature dropped to 28 degrees overnight, but Springfield’s two emergency cold weather shelters did not open.

“I cannot disclose where I was [last night]. But it was in a community that fights for all kinds of things, including your life,” she said.

Schaeffer said violence erupted at the first location. One man ended up in the Emergency Room, she said.

CARTHAGE, Mo. (AP) — Butterball says it plans to cut operations at its Carthage processing plant next spring, costing about 450 jobs.

The company said in a statement Wednesday the changes are intended to better align the company's products with consumer demand. The plant will continue to produce ground turkey and turkey burgers.

The changes aren't scheduled to begin until March 1.

The company also said a limited number of turkey growers will be affected by the change but it does not expect Carthage-area growers to be impacted.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri’s Republican attorney general has brought the state into an effort by GOP officials across the nation to reverse President Donald Trump’s election loss.

Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced Wednesday that Missouri has joined more than15 other states in asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a case filed by Trump ally and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton attacking election procedures in the battleground states of Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the number of reported cases of COVID-19 in Greene County had increased 16 percent in the last seven days.

According to the Springfield-Greene County Health Department’s Dashboard, the county had a reported 16,895 cases of COVID-19, and 2,747 were active.  There had been 247 deaths.

The Christian County Health Department is advising anyone who attended any of six Christmas services at James River Church in Ozark over the weekend to watch for COVID-19 symptoms.  Photos circulated on social media showing large numbers of people side by side inside the church.  Many were not wearing masks despite a mask ordinance in place in Ozark. 

In a statement on Facebook, the health department said, “The lack of regard for the masking ordinance and therefore its fellow community members by this venue and its occupants is not condoned by the CCHD.”

If you drive by Cox South, you might notice something new:  Colorful metal tulips have sprung up along Primrose Street.  Each of the metal tulips represents five COVID-19 patients who have been released.

Rhonda Galbraith knew she wanted her church to serve as an emergency cold weather shelter for homeless women. But there was a catch:  the church she pastors, Grace United Methodist Church in Springfield, was located near a school. And she knew that would make things delicate.

"But we made an appeal to Planning and Zoning and City Council three years ago. And we have a working relationship with the school across the street from us, and they gave us their blessing," Galbraith said.

Kaitlyn McConnell is the founder of Ozarks Alive, a website that is dedicated to the preservation and documentation of local culture and history. To visit the site, click here.

Buried deep in the hills of Douglas County is a nearly nonexistent town called Topaz. Serene scenery and a gushing spring say you’ve arrived, after traveling a crunchy gravel road. Perhaps some of those same stones carried locals who, in the past, brought their wheat to be ground at the town’s mill. 

Peter Garcelon was homeless when he first moved to Springfield.

“I've been in prison. And I spent 10 years in prison. And after I got out, I turned my life over to the Lord,” Garcelon said.

Now that he’s found housing, he tries to spread encouragement at the Veterans Coming Home Center, a drop-in place for the homeless in central Springfield. Garcelon says the pandemic has brought extra anxiety and despair to this fragile population.

Mercy Hospitals president and COO, Brent Hubbard, said it’s imperative that the city extend its mask ordinance.  The mandate is set to expire in January, but Springfield City Council will vote on a mask ordinance extension in December 14.

Hubbard told Springfield City Council Tuesday, while hope is on the horizon with vaccine development, the rate of infection continues to climb.

365 days a year, the Salvation Army’s Frontline Feeding program in Springfield serves meals to the homeless.

"We serve that lunch rain, sunshine or snow, pandemics, whatever," said Jeff Smith, a spokesman for the Salvation Army in Springfield. He says in more typical years, that program has provided a seated, hot lunch indoors. But once the pandemic struck, the organization had to figure out how to serve the meals while also staying safe and keeping in line with local ordinances.

So they quickly switched to lunches to-go, like a carry-out service.

As COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to increase in Greene County, the City of Springfield plans to step up enforcement of the city’s mask ordinance.  Springfield city manager, Jason Gage, announced the increased enforcement at the Springfield City Council lunch Tuesday. 

The announcement came after Springfield-Greene County Health Department director, Clay Goddard, told council eight more Greene County residents have died of COVID-19.  Nineteen deaths were announced Monday.

Gage told council it’s time to issue citations.

The first way the pandemic changed things for 48-year-old William Still was that he no longer had access to a toilet or shower.

"McDonald's, Hardee's, Wendy's and anywhere that had a restroom you could use [before the pandemic]. And now, you're down to Fast and Friendly, if you make a purchase," he said, referring to a nearby gas station. 

He’s a US Army veteran, originally from Oklahoma City, and he’s been homeless for a year and a half, he said.

The Springfield-Greene County Health Department says 19 more Greene County residents have lost their lives to COVID-19. They were a man in his 40s, a man in his 60s, a woman in her 60s, four women in their 70s, two men in their 70s, two women in their 80s, a man in his 80s, a man in his 90s and six women in their 90s. Seventeen were associated with long-term care.

Since the beginning of December, 43 Greene County residents have died of COVID-19, and there have been 239 deaths since the pandemic began.