• Last modified 681 days ago (July 9, 2020)


4 new COVID cases confirmed after county defies mask order

Staff writer

Two new COVID-19 cases were confirmed Tuesday, five days after county commissioners rejected a governor’s order that people wear masks in public.

Health administrator Diedre Serene disclosed Tuesday that a woman between 55 and 64 years old had been placed in isolation after a laboratory confirmed she had the virus.

Tuesday evening, a woman between 35 and 44 was confirmed to have COVID and transferred from St. Luke Hospital to Newton Medical Center. Serene had not yet announced that case at press time.

She is the county’s 15th confirmed COVID patient.

On Monday, a woman between ages 45 and 54 was placed in isolation after a laboratory confirmed she had the virus.

Those three and another patient in the 45-to-54 age bracket, who was identified Thursday, are all active cases.

Notice of the patient confirmed Thursday came less than two hours after commissioners nullified Governor Laura Kelly’s order to wear masks.

The county has released few details about any of the patients. The 15th patient is a worker in a downtown Marion office. Monitored radio transmissions indicate that the 12th patient may be a 47-year-old Peabody resident who had been sick for a week with chest pains, shortness of breath, and a fever.

Before commissioners met Thursday, she was taken by Marion ambulance from the 200 block of N. Maple St. in Peabody to Newton Medical Center.

Another case may be coming. Early Monday morning, using code words reserved for possible COVID-19 cases, dispatchers sent Hillsboro and Peabody ambulances to near 140th and Jade Rds. for an unresponsive 89-year-old woman with difficulty breathing. She was taken to Newton Med by Hillsboro ambulance.

In overruling the governor’s order Thursday, commissioners used a law requiring that they consult with local public health officials, certify that the order was not necessary in the county, and document results of their investigation.

No document was approved at a special meeting Thursday afternoon. Instead, commissioners authorized chairman Jonah Gehring to work with county counselor Brad Jantz, who was not present, on a resolution that Gehring would be authorized to sign on behalf of the commissioners.

Health department consultant Don Hodson, a longtime Marion County physician and the county’s coroner, was succinct in opposing the commission’s action Thursday.

“I just say that it’s not a commission decision; it’s a board of health decision,” Hodson said. “I agree with the governor on this. That’s all I have to say.”

Serene, however, had indicated before the meeting that she might favor a less-stringent order.

Commissioners agreed that the resolution still should recommend social distancing, hand washing, and other health recommendations.

When commissioners reviewed the completed resolution Monday, commissioner Dianne Novak called it “harsh.”

Before the state lifted stay-at-home orders imposed in April, the county had only 5 confirmed and 2 probable cases of the virus. The numbers didn’t start rising again until stay-at-home orders were lifted.

Contacts of the latest patients are being traced and will be put in quarantine, Serene said.

Health officials continue to emphasize that residents should remain at least six feet away from anyone not residing in the same residence. They also should frequently and thoroughly wash their hands, sanitize frequently touched surfaces, stay home when sick, and always wear a face covering when in public.

Last modified July 9, 2020