Southeast Missouri town of Sikeston at center of COVID surge

Posted at 10:45 AM, Sep 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-09 11:45:23-04

ST. LOUIS — The epicenter of Missouri's COVID-19 outbreak has shifted to the state's southeast, and no place is getting hit harder than Sikeston.

The town of 16,000 residents about 145 miles (230 kilometers) south of St. Louis sits in Scott and New Madrid counties. State tracking on Thursday showed those counties had the worst rates of new COVID-19 cases over the past seven days. Eight of the nine hardest-hit counties over the past week are in the southeastern corner of the state.

Missouri Delta Medical Center in Sikeston posted on Facebook that it had just six people hospitalized with COVID-19 in June. That number rose to 21 in July and 79 in August. The first six days of September saw 20 patients already, including six in intensive care and two on ventilators. None of the 20 patients were vaccinated, the hospital said.

Scott County alone reported 263 new cases over the seven-day period as of Tuesday, and a testing positivity rate of more than 30%. Missouri's positivity rate is 11.4%.

The delta variant of the coronavirus first hit Missouri in the southwest of the state in June.

The Missouri COVID-19 dashboard on Thursday cited 1,608 newly confirmed cases and 27 new deaths statewide. Missouri has recorded 644,791 confirmed cases and 10,841 deaths since the onset of the pandemic.

In the Kansas City area, Jackson County officials say they will take the extraordinary step of seeking a court order to close an eatery that has refused to comply with the county's mask requirement.

Rae's Café in Blue Springs has refused to require masks or post signs requiring them. The county last week revoked its license, but Rae's remained open and said it was now a private club, making it exempt from the mandate.

Caleb Clifford to Democratic County Executive Frank White Jr., said in a statement late Wednesday that the county has tried without success to work with Rae's owner.

"That is why, for the first time during the pandemic, the County will be seeking a court order to close the business," the statement said.

St. Louis County's mask mandate also remains a matter of contention. Circuit Judge Ellen Ribaudo said after a hearing Wednesday that she will soon decide if the county can immediately impose a requirement, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Democratic County Executive Sam Page announced the order on July 26 amid rising cases of the delta variant. The County Council voted a day later to rescind it and Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt obtained a temporary restraining order blocking enforcement of the mandate. Ribaudo then issued a preliminary injunction on Aug. 19.

But after weeks of public testimony, Democratic council members Rita Days and Shalonda Webb switched their votes and the mandate was approved. The county filed a motion to dissolve the injunction, which Ribaudo must decide.