Lafayette County health officials worry as COVID-19 cases surge

Posted at 6:55 PM, Nov 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-13 23:41:25-05

ODESSA, Mo. — Lafayette County might be an hour east of downtown Kansas City, Missouri, but it's among the many surrounding rural communities now dealing with the same worrisome surge in COVID-19 cases urban areas have dealt with since March.

There are currently 269 active COVID-19 cases in the county compared to 75 active cases on Oct. 13.

“It’s difficult to keep up,” Lafayette County Health Department Director Thomas Emerson said.

So far in November, there have been 276 new COVID-19 cases reported in the county, which had 319 new cases in September and 347 news cases in October.

After reporting only 239 cases through the end of August, Lafayette County has seen the number of positive COVID-19 cases balloon to 1,181 since the beginning of September, an increase of nearly 400% during the last 10 weeks.

The stark reality of the pandemic hit home for many Thursday when Odessa High School announced that its undefeated football team would forfeit its district championship game after two people associated with the football team tested positive, forcing the entire Bulldogs team into quarantine.

“The first thing we do in any situation is determine if there’s any way to pick out, to dissect out, individuals who did not meet the definition of close contact,” Emerson said. “In this case, as in so many other cases, you cannot be absolutely certain that the kids on the team were not exposed and did not meet the definition of contact exposure.”

For Odessa residents like Levi Corn, learning about the forfeit highlighted the impact the pandemic is having on communities.

“I felt like it hadn’t really affected our sports until recently,” Corn said.

The Bulldogs had won 24 consecutive games and were eyeing a second straight Missouri Class 3 state championship, but the community's health and safety took precedence over the team's title chase.

With Thanksgiving weeks away and Christmas fast approaching, Emerson fears the COVID-19 numbers in the county will continue to climb.

“If the numbers continue to climb, we try and keep up as much as we can," he said. "I think with any system, you’re eventually going to overwhelm yourselves and not be able to actually do all of the contact tracing and just focus on the positive cases and the sick individuals. I don’t see an end in sight until a vaccine is readily available.”