tom patterson vax clinic

Nodaway County Health Department Administrator Tom Patterson oversees Maryville's first mass vaccination clinic Jan. 26. 

After dozens of grim milestones, a score of deaths and more than 10 months of volatile fluctuation, there are fewer active coronavirus cases in Nodaway County now than at any other point since July, bringing a note of good news to a county and city that has been upended and divided by COVID-19. 

The county’s active case count dropped to 18 Feb. 15 — the latest available data at the time of publication — after only two residents tested positive in the four preceding days. The figure marks the lowest total since at least mid-July, when Nodaway County first started tracking active cases. The previous low was 24, recorded Aug. 11 and three times from Feb. 5-7. 

Additionally, Nodaway County’s rolling seven-day average — which tracks the average number of residents who test positive per day over the previous week — dropped to 1.43 Feb. 15, the lowest mark since July 15, nearly two weeks before Maryville first issued its mask ordinance July 27

More than half of the active cases — a total of 10 — involve Northwest staff or students, according to the school’s COVID-19 dashboard. But even at the University, where numbers soared in late August as returning students brought an intense spike of COVID-19 cases with them to Nodaway County, the active caseload has remained remarkably low. There haven’t been more than 20 active cases among University staff and students since mid-December. 

The promising slow-down of COVID-19 transmission comes as the Nodaway County Health Department and Mosaic Medical Center - Maryville continue to host weekly mass vaccination events at Northwest’s Hughes Fieldhouse, where Health Department Administrator Tom Patterson can often be found in the observation area, watching over recent vaccine recipients, just as he has monitored the turbulent pandemic for the last 11 months. 

Patterson, the de facto face of Nodaway County’s pandemic response, has maintained a sometimes unfounded sense of optimism through the duration of the pandemic, even clinging to it as the county averaged more than 30 new virus cases per day during stretches of November. Now, as cases subside and vaccines are distributed, Patterson’s hopefulness borders on celebratory. After months of weathering the pandemic and being “hammered” by detractors and misinformationists, the county’s top health official seems to be vindicated. 

“I’m even more optimistic,” Patterson said Feb. 17, as he stood near the observatory section of Mosaic’s latest vaccine clinic. “I feel better, you know what I mean? I don’t know. It just feels better.” 

For now, Patterson and his colleagues at the health department — along with their partners at Mosaic, Northwest and Marvyille’s City office — will continue the slow, steady work of guiding the community back toward normalcy. 

It won’t be long, Patterson said, until the world is free from the pandemic’s grip. He forecasted a return to some degree of normalcy by mid-to-late-summer. And so, for now, in February, Patterson won’t take much time to gloat or even relax. There is still work to be done — but it is finally nearing completion, as Missouri awaits the opening of the next tier of vaccine-eligible residents, whenever that might be.

“We made it through it,” Patterson said. “And we’ll make it through the next — I’m optimistic we’ll make it through the next phase. Whatever it takes; if we’ve gotta all day and all night, we’ll make it through it, because it’s what we’re supposed to do.”

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