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St. Joseph considered "cluster" community due to volume of COVID-19 cases

While the numbers of cases are significant, they're not as drastic compared to other cluster communities.

Posted: May 22, 2020 5:37 PM
Updated: May 27, 2020 7:31 AM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) St. Joseph has gained national attention during the coronavirus pandemic after close to 500 workers turned up positive at Triumph Foods, resulting in being labeled as a cluster community. 

“Because of the outbreak at Triumph Foods with being a meat processing facility and the cluster of cases there, that’s how we got the national recognition there,”said Nancy King, health educator at St. Joseph Health Department. 

While the numbers of cases are significant, they're not as drastic compared to other cluster communities. 

“We’re pretty pleased that with our progress with contract tracing and minimizing the number of deaths we’ve had and keeping our numbers as low as we can,”said King. 

One example is Lansing, Kansas.

With an outbreak of their own in Kansas' largest prision, they're also being considered a cluster community.

While Leavenworth county's population, 81,758, is similar to Buchanan county's, 87,364, Leavenworth has higher numbers in positive COVID-19 cases and deaths related to the virus. 

In Leavenworth county, 1,058 positive cases with 7 deaths. 

Buchanan county is reporting 602 positive cases with 2 deaths. 

Missouri Governor Mike Parson credits the boxed-in strategy used at Triumph foods to help minimize the harm. 

“The goal of ‘boxed-in’ testing is to go into these high risk facilities where there has been at least one positive case and execute facility wide testing,”said Governor Parson. 

Boxed-in strategy targets long-term care facilities, but can be implemented in close quartered facilities like a processing plant.

Health experts said testing populations like meat processing plants, long-term care facilities and prisons are the key to slowing the spread. 

“These are the real risk places. We have to make sure that they’re isn’t explosive spread there because that can kill a lot of people,”said former CDC director, Tom Freiden.

St. Joseph has been using the community sampling strategy to test more of the city's cluster. 

“Our testing prevalence with our sampling was a little over 2%, that’s probably attributed to Triumph as far as increasing the number of cases in our community. It still seems low, but compared to other community testing events we’ve had around the state, it is higher,”said King.

Dr. Randall Williams said in Thursday daily coronavirus briefing that in addition to the Cares Act funding, Missouri has received $135 million from the federal government to conduct more testing. 

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A line of thunderstorms will push through northwest Missouri and northeast Kansas Sunday afternoon. Some of these storms may be strong with large hail and heavy rain being the main threats. Fall-like weather will usher into the area Monday with highs mainly in the 60s and no hazardous weather expected through the week. The area could see its first frost overnight Friday/Saturday.
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