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A Nodaway County resident has tested positive for COVID-19, the Nodaway County Health Department announced in a press release April 2, marking the first confirmed case of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus in the county.

The affected resident, a 50-to-59-year-old woman, has been admitted to Mosaic Life Care-St. Joseph, Nodaway County Health Department Administrator Tom Patterson said in the release.

In a phone call with The Missourian, Patterson said he wasn’t sure if the resident was tested in Maryville or St. Joseph.

“Uhh,” Patterson said, before pausing for close to 10 seconds. “I’m not 100% sure. … I think she was tested down there.”

The county health department and Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services are working to identify any “close contacts” of the affected resident who might be at a higher risk of infection, Patterson said in the release. County and state officials plan to provide symptom-monitoring and isolating guidance to any identified close contacts.

Patterson said he is hopeful the resident’s close contacts have been limited with social distancing guidelines having been recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention for several weeks and ordered in Maryville for 11 days.

While there have been more than 990,000 positive cases of COVID-19 worldwide, including 234,462 in the U.S., the confirmed case is the first in the rural northwest Missouri county. The COVID-19 pandemic, which first appeared in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, has brought more than 1800 cases to Missouri and has killed 18 in the state, according to the Missouri DHSS.

“I always hoped as we went along that we could get as far along as possible before we got a case,” Patterson said. “We all felt like we’d probably get a case, I bet. … I felt like the further along we got, the better it would be in all aspects.”

The resident’s positive test came via a laboratory operated by Quest Diagnostics, an American clinical lab that operates in several countries and has conducted more than 400,000 COVID-19 tests across the U.S.

In the wake of Nodaway County’s first confirmed coronavirus case, Patterson continued to advise residents to take precautionary measures while Maryville, the county’s most populous city and home to the county health department, remains under a shelter-in-place order, one the city has urged compliance of.

“The health department urges the public to practice good hygiene, social distancing, staying home, and limiting in-person interactions,” Patterson said in the release. “If you are sick, particularly with a fever and a cough, or shortness of breath, contact your health care provider for guidance regarding symptoms and next steps.”

Patterson said his concern for COVID-19 didn’t grow with the disease’s arrival in Nodaway County. He said the health department had the advantage of multiple weeks of messaging, urging citizens to practice good hygiene and social distance. He said the disease’s arrival isn’t cause for increased alarm.

“I mean, no and yes, you know what I’m saying?” Patterson said. “We’ve got cases on both sides of us and above us and below us, so it was just really a matter of time, I thought, before there would be a case here.”

While several residents in the comment section of the Nodaway County Health Department’s Facebook post announcing the positive test blamed the disease’s spread on poor social distancing practices, with one commenter, Wanda Bombara, writing that she knew the virus was coming “cause people wont listen,” Patterson said he thinks county residents are doing well with following the state and city standards.

Patterson said he wishes more people would avoid touching their faces, something he said that’s been seen as an afterthought among other safety guidelines. And he said the disease’s impact on the county could be minimal if residents continue to follow guidelines — something he hopes keeps up.

“I’m optimistic that what we’re doing is working,” Patterson said. “Social distancing is working. I’m certain of it. I can see it in the statistics, I can see in in the numbers, in the case reporting. But it’s no time to let up — we’ve got to keep going, pushing through.”

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