The Springfield-Greene County Health Department on Wednesday issued a warning that COVID-19 cases are hitting highs not seen for more than a year.
Speaking at a livestreamed news conference, Health Department Director Katie Towns said there were 473 new cases of COVID-19 reported in Greene County on Jan. 4, the highest number in a single day since the end of 2020. A month ago, the county was averaging 99 cases per day, Towns noted.
"We're seeing the beginning of what will be the worst surge yet," she said. "There will be significant and aggressive spread of this disease, and we are bracing for the impact that this will have."
She added that in just a few weeks, "every part of our community could be impacted, from our health care systems to our schools and our workplaces – impacts that could be worse than those we've experienced."
Towns said the delta variant continues to fuel new cases, and the Health Department is expecting an uptick in local omicron cases.
And while the omicron variant has been reported to be less dangerous than delta, Towns said it's still worthy of concern.
"This variant can still cause severe illness, especially in those who are high risk, who are unvaccinated and those who have not yet received a booster dose," she said. "The good news is that vaccination is still shown to protect individuals from severe illnesses, hospitalizations and death."
With nearly 52% of the eligible population vaccinated in Greene County and more than 52,000 booster shots administered, Towns said the community has made good progress but said vaccinations should climb to deal with the new surge.
She encouraged all Greene County residents to additionally wear face masks, physically distance, wash their hands often and get tests if they have COVID-19 symptoms.
As of yesterday, the seven-day average for daily cases in Greene County was 248, and 168 people were in local hospitals with the virus, according to the Health Department's COVID-19 dashboard. Towns said information on vaccination opportunities is available at Vaccine417.com.
417 Cocktails LLC moved; 7 Brew Coffee added its first shop in Lebanon; and Branson outlet store for Baltimore, Maryland-based sports apparel retailer Under Armour relocated.