KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Officials in Northwest Missouri are expressing concern over the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the rural area.
The Atchison County, Missouri, Health Department shared a Facebook post on Monday encouraging the community to take precautions due to the rise in cases in surrounding counties.
Atchison County is in the far northwest corner of the state and borders both Iowa and Nebraska.
Daily, weekly and then monthly, the health department's COVID-19 updates were beginning to go out with less frequency, as cases were few and far between.
"Then we started seeing a rise in cases in our region, so I just felt like we needed to check in with our county residents and give them an update or a heads up on what’s going on in the region," said Julie Livengood, Atchison County Health Department administrator.
On Monday, when the health department posted it's latest COVID-19 update, the county had zero cases.
"I think an hour after I put that post out ... we were notified of two cases today and possibly two more, so I think it’s starting," Livengood said. "We’re very concerned about these neighboring counties and their handful, their multitude of cases, I mean I don’t know if we could handle that many cases that Livingston County has.“
The county health department specifically addressed concern for case numbers in Livingston, Linn and Worth counties, stating that they were identified as national COVID-19 hotspots last week. Caldwell, Gentry, Andrew and Buchanan counties are also seeing some increase.
Several of the counties, including Livingston and Linn, reported mostly unvaccinated people were testing positive.
County officials fear Atchison County could be next to see an increase in cases and is encouraging residents to get vaccinated.
The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are available through walk-in appointments at the county health department. Pfizer is also available by appointment.
Free testing is also available with rapid results, which the county encourages taking advantage of to identify cases before attending work or school and limiting exposure.
As case counts go up, so do the incentives to get more people vaccinated.
"We do need to get creative because not everyone wants to or is able to access vaccines and testing of the same way," said Janell Friesen with the Wyandotte County, Kansas, Unified Government Health Department. "It’s something we’re seeing, incentives in lots of other places and in some cases seeing a response to that, and we wanted to see what version of that makes sense for our community.“
Livengood said the concept is on Atchison County's radar, too.
“It may be a good idea and we may need to start it," Livengood said. "The state is kind of looking into it as well so maybe we’ll get a little bit of direction from them to see what would work the best.“