June 23, 2020

Health authorities respond to outbreak in southwest Missouri

Media Contact:
Lisa Cox
Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services

JEFFERSON CITY, MO – The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) has continually worked to expand COVID-19 testing capabilities and executed new strategies to slow the spread of the virus. Significant case growth is being monitored in southwest Missouri, and special attention is being given to food processing plants that employ many essential workers from the southwest Missouri area. The state’s “box-in” strategy approach is currently being used in the area where the outbreak is impacting citizens residing primarily in McDonald, Jasper, Newton and Barry Counties. 

The “box in” strategy for the outbreak involves comprehensive testing, isolating all infected people, locating all contacts of the infected people, and having those contacts self-quarantine for 14 days. 

In McDonald County, Tyson Foods has worked with state and local public health officials and arranged for comprehensive testing of all employees, most of whom presented with no symptoms, and also agreed to operate at 60 percent capacity to allow for those with positive results or close contacts of those positive cases to properly isolate or quarantine. Additionally, they are enhancing several infection prevention measures at the facility, including robust cleaning and disinfection practices. 

Other clusters of cases in the region are also being monitored. DHSS statewide data shows that 310 of the 413 new cases reported to the state from midday June 20-midday June 21 were those of residents of the City of Joplin and McDonald, Jasper and Newton Counties. DHSS is providing contact tracing support for the local public health agencies impacted by the case growth associated with these outbreaks. 

DHSS and the Missouri National Guard are partnering with the local health departments in McDonald, Jasper, Newton and Barry Counties to host drive-through community testing events. Events in McDonald and Newton Counties will take place on June 26-27, Barry County on June 29, and Jasper County on June 29-30. This free testing is available to any Missouri resident, symptomatic or asymptomatic; no doctor’s order is required. Registration is required and is now open at www.health.mo.gov/communitytest, or participants can call 877-435-8411. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will also be deploying a team to the area this week to assist state and local health authorities with the epidemiological investigation. This investigation will determine risk factors for the COVID-19 spread in the Missouri counties bordering Arkansas where the outbreak has been ongoing, evaluate role of meat and poultry plant outbreaks in the community spread of infection, estimate prevalence and determine risk factors for COVID-19 spread in the pediatric population and develop a community mitigation plan for the COVID-19 outbreak in those counties.

According to the CDC, there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food. Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets.

“We are grateful for our partnerships locally, federally and in neighboring states like Arkansas, that allow all of us to collaborate during these times that public health experts are in great need,” said Dr. Randall Williams, director of DHSS. “It is also important to understand that this is a localized outbreak -- not a surge of cases throughout the state -- and together, we are responding accordingly.” 


About the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services: The department seeks to be the leader in protecting health and keeping people safe. More information about DHSS can be found at http://health.mo.gov or find us on Facebook and Twitter @HealthyLivingMo