Missouri’s Stay at Home order is set to expire on May 3, 2020, then Missouri will have to determine how to reopen.
Reopening the economy after the Stay at Home Order is a complicated procedure that has a lot of questions and uncertainty, but we do know however we reopen, we expect it will happen in phases. Opening in phases means we will gradually reintroduce people back to each other and the community rather than all at once. These phases are expected to be staged and to meet data standards in order to move to the next phase. Research shows phases can help mitigate the chance of COVID-19 resurgence and protect our community, especially the most vulnerable to complications.
No matter how we reopen, the number of cases will increase. As we reopen and start to come into contact with more people, our risk to be infected and ability to infect others will increase. We just have to be cautious to not move through these phases too quickly and undo what was accomplished through the Stay at Home order.
Without the Stay at Home order, we do not know the strain COVID-19 would have put on our hospitals and healthcare systems. The worst-case scenario would have been what we saw in other countries and states where hospitals were bombarded without enough supplies to provide the best care that everyone needed. The Stay at Home order contained the spread of COVID-19 so healthcare systems and hospitals could prevent the instability, put policies in place and build a response.
Healthcare systems, hospitals and first responders are all short on personal protective equipment – meaning gloves, masks, gowns, everything they use to protect themselves from patients so they can provide care. Without the correct personal protective equipment, medical providers and first responders are all at risk of getting ill and would then be unable to provide the necessary care. The Stay at Home order gave time to help systems, the state and federal government time to address the personal protective equipment shortage and come up with a solution.
The Stay at Home order also gave local health departments time to build the capacity to conduct contact investigations. Each person who tests positive must have a contact investigation done per Missouri State statue.
A contact investigation is where every person who has had direct contact with a person positive with COVID-19, is contacted by the health department to let them know of the possibility they were infected. It has been determined a person is contagious 48 hours before a person began to show symptoms of illness, so they have the potential to have been in contact with a large amount of people. Each person who may have had close contact with a positive case of COVID-19 becomes a person under investigation (PUI) who is then placed under quarantine to watch for symptoms, which can take up to 14 days to begin to show.
Contact investigations can take a lot of time and man power, especially for smaller health departments, so having an overwhelming number of these without a plan and the time available could have caused an enormous strain on health departments.
Each PUI is placed under quarantine for 14 days to watch for symptoms and each positive person is placed under isolation until they meet the criteria to be recovered. All are asked to self-isolate and quarantine, but sometimes it takes the health departments and even local law enforcement to enforce for the health and safety of an entire community.
Ultimately, the Stay at Home order and social distancing guidelines were put into place to help protect the residents of Missouri. Not only did it allow health systems to prepare and plan for an unprecedented pandemic, it also helped slow the spread of COVID-19 by limiting person to person connections.
Now is the unprecedented step of reopening the State of Missouri from the Stay at Home order and determining what phases and how quickly these phases should be put into place in order to protect our healthcare systems, hospitals and residents of Missouri, while trying to get back to a way of life we are all used to.
Governor Parson is expected to release guidelines for counties to follow when opening up their economies. Macon County leaders will use these guidelines in determining how best to open up business and commerce while maintaining the health of Macon County citizens.