Saturday, October 31, 2020

Missouri COVID-19 death toll passes 3,000, 2,986 cases in past 24 hours


Statistics posted today on the Missouri COVID-19 Dashboard indicate 2,986 new cases were confirmed in a 24-hour period.

The positivity rate for testing is at 13.9 percent.

The state has recorded 104 deaths in the past seven days, pushing the total to 3,024.

The dashboard shows 1,574 coronavirus patients in Missouri hospitals, with 464 of those in intensive care units and 189 on ventilators.

Joplin City Council poised to approve Parkwood Tournament proposal to lease, operate city stadiums

Joplin city officials estimate that a deal with Parkwood Tournament LLC, allowing the newly formed company to lease four stadiums for the next three years, will have a net benefit of $57,000 for the city.

The deal with the company, which is run by Mike Greninger, Bobby Landis and Don Patty, will have its second and third readings Monday night during the 6 p.m. Joplin City Council meeting.

The not-for-profit Joplin Sports Authority, which did not learn about the deal until it already had the approval of city officials and was in contract form, voted this week to submit a proposal for operating the stadiums that it said would be a better arrangement for the city financially, but no such deal is on the preliminary Council agenda.

City officials say the $57,000 net benefit would include a decrease during the first year in operational loss of $27,000 and $30,000 from "allocating seasonal staff to parks beautification needs."

The deal would go into effect February 1, 2021 and end November 30, 2023 with an option for renewal and would cover Joe Becker Stadium, Wendell Redden Stadium, Gabby Street Field and Bassman Softball Complex.

Parkwood Tournament would pay $55,000 a year. The city would retain any naming rights, but Parkwood Tournament would have all advertising rights. The city would maintain the power to veto certain types of advertising.

Under the terms of the agreement, Parkwood Tournament would have the following responsibilities:

-Perform all maintenance, service, cleaning and care of facilities

-Responsible for any required personnel or volunteers

-Responsible for ticket sales and entry gate

-Responsible for operational repairs resulting from damage caused by use

-Responsible for operational repairs under $1,000

-Prohibit metal cleats on turf and sunflower-type seeds

-Prepare fields for games and tournaments on the weekends

The city would have the following responsibilities:

-Train tenant to maintain artificial turf

-Maintain roof, floor, walls and other structural parts of various facilities

-Mow grassy areas of facilities

-Prepare fields for games and tournaments during the week

-Responsible for repairs over $1,000

The city officials had recommended the deal be passed on an emergency basis at the October 19 council meeting so Parkwood Tournament could begin scheduling tournaments for 2021, but that failed when it received a 5-4 vote, one vote shy of the two-thirds necessary to allow a bill to be passed on an emergency basis.

Those who favored the emergency designation were Mayor Ryan Stanley and council members Gary Shaw, Keenan Cortez, Phil Stinnett and Doug Lawson.

Opposing the designation were council members Diane Reid Adams, Chuck Copple, Anthony Monteleone and Christina Williams.

The accompanying KOAM video reports on the Joplin Sports Authority's intention to present a competing proposal.

State hospital administrators call on Parson to issue mask mandate, governor appears content to wait on vaccine

By Rudi Keller

Rural hospitals are facing a “transfer crisis,” with urban health centers refusing COVID-19 patients who need more care than can be provided locally, administrators told Gov. Mike Parson and other state leaders Thursday in a conference call.

Administrators called on Parson to issue a statewide mask mandate to signal that the COVID-19 pandemic in smaller communities is threatening to overwhelm them.

And Richard J. Liekweg, president and CEO of BJC HealthCare, one of the state’s largest hospital operators, said his group is unable to transfer COVID-19 patients within its system and is considering cutting back on elective procedures to preserve beds.

A decision is expected in the coming week, BJC spokeswoman Laura High wrote in an email.

The Missouri Independent was provided a recording of the weekly call between Parson, Department of Health and Senior Services Director Randall Williams and hospital CEOs. Coordinated by the Missouri Hospital Association, it was the 21st such call since the coronavirus pandemic began earlier this year, association spokesman Dave Dillon stated in an email.

The Independent verified the authenticity of the recording in interviews with participants after obtaining it.

The call shows the increasing stress health providers are feeling as Missouri COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations hit record levels.

“I respectfully ask what is our plan to address the increased cases and hospitalizations?” asked Texas County Memorial Hospital CEO Wesley Murray, who added: “We don’t seem to have a plan to try to decrease the cases and the hospitalizations.”

October has been the worst month so far for new infections, hospitalizations and reported deaths.

The state health department has reported an average of 1,802 new infections every day in October, with a peak of 3,061 reported Thursday.

The worst outbreaks this month have been in rural counties. Of the 30 counties with the highest per capita infection rates in October, only one, Cole County, has more than 50,000 people.

Jeff Tindle, CEO of Carroll County Memorial Hospital, asked for help obtaining rapid testing equipment and questioned why schools received priority over hospitals for a supply of Abbott rapid testing kits obtained by the state.

He then described the “transfer crisis” at his 25-bed hospital serving a northwest Missouri county of 8,679 people. Carroll County has reported 85 COVID-19 cases this month and two deaths.

“It’s taken us five or six calls to find an institution that will take a patient,” Tindle said. “And what’s worse is when we get them back through, say, a swing bed program, and they’re healthy enough to go back to the nursing home, zero beds available, no one is taking those patients and it is it has become the unintended consequence of all this that we never anticipated that we can’t get them to a facility.”

Schools got the rapid tests first because that is the direction given by the federal government when it shipped them, Williams said.

He also said the issue of diminishing hospital space is one he is working on.

“We are acutely aware of the issues with rural hospitals both with testing and referrals and capacity and so Lee (Norman, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and the Environment) and I kind of joined forces on that to do what we can,” Williams said.

Tindle, reached Friday afternoon, confirmed his statement and added that many of the hospitals he would send patients in need of care he could not provide are either full or not accepting patients from outside their area.

Under normal conditions, about 75 percent of the patients transferred from Carroll County are sent to Kansas City hospitals and about 25 percent are sent to Columbia hospitals, he said.

While Tindle did not ask for a statewide mask mandate on the call, he said he supports one.

“Some of the rural communities don’t think it is real,” he said.

On the call, Parson had the first and last word. In his opening remarks, he stressed testing, increasing vaccination rates for flu, and concern for exhaustion of medical personnel.

“But one thing has been a concern to us that we’ve heard now for some time and still hearing it loud and clear, is the health care workers themselves,” Parson said.

He also said that the state is scouting for locations that can provide ultracold storage for a vaccine the state expects to start receiving as soon as Nov. 15.

Parson made many of the same points in an online COVID-19 briefing Thursday afternoon.

The emphasis on testing is important, Texas County’s Murray said. But it only confirms what providers already know – a lot of people are sick.

Texas County, with about 25,400 residents, has seen cases almost double this month, from 321 to 620. The positive rate for tests in the southwest Missouri county is 25 percent and for patients coming to the hospital, it is 35 percent, Murray said.

“It feels like all of our eggs are in the basket of the vaccine waiting to come, which isn’t here yet, which is coming soon,” Murray said. “And I’m glad for that. But my concern is a large percentage of the people will turn down the vaccine.”

The administrators explained their concerns are both with the coming winter, which will drive activities indoors, and the behavior of people in their communities who aren’t changing behavior to minimize their exposure.

“Please understand, we have a percentage of people that will refuse to take the test, even when they’re sick, and refuse the quarantine, even when they’re sick,” Tindle said.

And in Albany, in northwest Missouri’s Gentry County, a recent Academic Bowl for elementary students was staged in a high school gymnasium to provide space for an audience, said Jon Doolittle with Mosaic Medical Center in Albany.

But the people in attendance sat close together, he said.

Gentry County, with about 6,600 residents, has had 65 cases of its 188 COVID-19 cases in October. Mosaic Medical Center is a 25-bed hospital, Doolittle said in an interview Friday.

In the call, he urged a statewide mask mandate, or at least firm rules from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Missouri State High School Activities Association requiring masks at indoor events. Sports are moving indoors for the winter, he noted.

“It seems that many folks are mindful of following the rule but not inclined to do anything beyond what the rules require,” Doolittle said in an interview. “I don’t believe we are at a point yet where people are taking the precautions that the situation indicates because they haven’t really internalized the level of risk.”

His discussions with school and other local officials tells him a statewide mask mandate would give them cover where it is politically unpopular, Doolittle said on the call.

“And there is this sense that they know that perhaps being more restrictive in a lot of ways is the right thing to do right now, but nobody wants to go first,” he told Parson and Williams. “If things come from the state level, that can help you know, it’s easier to march together towards some of these things. I do believe that it is safer to move kind of when the herd moves.”

Robert Knodell, deputy chief of staff for Parson, said he would take the concerns to both the education department and the association.

“And we’re looking in the next couple of weeks to try to, to try to come out with some revised guidance at the state level that hopefully, you know school districts can consider, to give them the cover they need to make the right decisions to, you know, to operate above all safely,” Knodell said.

In an email to the Independent, Kelli Jones, Parson’s spokeswoman, did not address a question asking whether Parson heard anything to make him reconsider his opposition to a state mask mandate.

She did offer an assurance that more hospital capacity will be ready when needed.

“Gov. Parson is in regular contact with the Missouri Hospital Association and hospital leaders across the state,” Jones wrote. “If needed, we know that with the help of the Missouri National Guard and the Corps of Engineers we can construct an alternate care site in 11 days.”

At the end of Thursday’s call, Parson made no commitments to change state policies on masks or impose other limits on activities to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“We’re hearing you loud and clear,” Parson said. “Every day we’re going to fight this virus. What I will say is, we will do what we can to help and still maintain a balanced approach. I’ve said that from day one and I’m going to continue to do it.”

Barton County reports fourth COVID-19 death

(From the Barton County Health Department)

The Barton County Health Department is announcing that a staff member of the Liberal RII School District has tested positive for COVID-19. 

The BCHD is working closely with the school district to identify all close contacts. Those who are identified as close contacts will be contacted by health department representatives and advised on how to proceed. 

To protect the privacy of the individual and their family, we will not release individually identifiable details. The individuals are quarantined and being monitored closely by the Barton County Health Department.

COVID-19 Update for Barton County, Missouri as of October 30, 2020:
Total Positive Cases: 397
Total Active Cases: 33
Total Recovered: 364
Deaths: 4

Ben Baker: Beware, Nancy Pelosi could be your next president


This is the time of the year when politicians whose names are on the ballot usually spend their time spreading the good word about their accomplishments.

That plan won't fly for Ben Baker, R-Neosho, who is seeking his second term in the Missouri House of Representatives.

Of course, he could talk about his efforts to keep crossdressers away from Missouri libraries, or his efforts to battle mask mandates and eliminate any rules designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Or he could talk about his hostility toward public education.

Yes, this would be a great time for a politician to spread the word about his accomplishments.

When you're Ben Baker and your accomplishments could be written in one sentence and still fall three words short, you have to spread something else.

Hence, his Facebook attempt to scare his friends and followers into thinking that if the presidential election isn't settled by Tuesday night, it will open the gates for that nightmare scenario that could put Nancy Pelosi in the Oval Office.

A Democrat.

And even worse than that- a woman.

Naturally, Ben Baker wants to protect us from that fate worse than death since everyone knows Democratic women want to take away his guns and force him to wear a mask.

And no one wants to be emaskulated. (Yes, I spelled that the way I wanted to spell it.)

In all fairness, since I am writing about him, let's allow Ben Baker to have his say:

Lots of people have been spreading misinformation about what happens if the election gets delayed because of mail in ballots or who would assume power if it is not decided by the inauguration, etc. Here is a summary of the process to help explain possible scenarios. 

- A close election between the presidential candidates where the winner could change as incoming ballots are counted over the days following the election, could lead to a legal contest over the results, this could possibly end up in the SCOTUS. 

- It’s possible there will be all kinds of litigation, and much of it will be in the different state courts. That’s because the U.S. Constitution gives primary responsibility for elections to the states

- The candidate who receives at least 270 out of 538 electoral votes wins the presidency. But if a tie or legal proceedings prevent a candidate from winning an absolute majority of votes in the Electoral College, a so-called “contingent election” would be held during a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, 2021— with Vice President Mike Pence presiding.

- The 12th Amendment states that a vote by the House of Representatives decides the presidency, with each state delegation having one vote. A majority of states (26) is needed to win. In this scenario Republicans would have a majority of the States. 

- The Senate elects the vice president with each senator having a vote, and a majority (51) is needed to win.

- The newly-elected Congress will be sworn in on Jan. 3, 2021, which would take on this responsibility.

- The presidency has only been decided this way one time — the election of John Quincy Adams in 1825.

- If the House hasn’t elected a president by Inauguration Day, then the vice president-elect steps in to serve as president until a commander-in-chief is picked, as laid out by the 20th Amendment.

- Keep in mind the House and Senate vote on these independently and the Senate will more than likely still be a Republican majority. The Senate would go ahead and elect the Vice President regardless of what the House decides to do. 

- Only If the Senate has also not yet chosen a vice president, then the Presidential Succession Act of 1947 applies — which says that the speaker of the House of Representatives would act as president until there is a president or vice president. If re-elected to both her seat and the speakership, this would be Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

After the House speaker, the next in line is the president pro tempore of the Senate. Currently, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, serves in this capacity

While Baker never specifies what misinformation is being spread, the major bit of misinformation is being spread by him.

Mail-in ballots that are still being counted past Tuesday are part of the election process. Since he rightly points out the Constitution leaves elections to the state, you would think Baker would also point out that many states already have this late counting built into their constitutions and it does not cause any problems.

He also fails to note that not one state requires elections to be decided on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. The canvassing is usually held a couple of days after the election and in some states more than a week later.

The electoral college does not meet until mid-December, which should provide plenty of time both for counting votes and for any legal challenges.

I am sure Baker left that out by accident and wasn't really trying to convince people that any mail-in votes could bring about the nightmare scenario of a President Pelosi.

Thankfully, Baker still has the time to correct the misinformation he is spreading, unless of course he wants to get together a search party to locate his first term accomplishments.

Joplin cardiologist: Mainlining and spreading misinformation about COVID-19 kills

(Dr. John Cox, a Joplin cardiologist, posted this message on his public Facebook page this morning.) 


That’s what it’s called when folks inject drugs directly into a vein. Rapid onset of effects. 

Disinformation in the world has reached that point. People see and hear on their favorite media site or do a deep dive into the dark recesses of the web and instantly believe it is true because it reinforces their prejudice. 

For some, they become Renfields. This character was subservient to Dracula in every way. “Yes master." So it is with them. “Yes Internet conspiracy master. I’m a true believer. Everyone else is lost.”

Because I have written a lot recently about Covid mostly I have been witness to these folks who have mainlined. The POTUS says something and within minutes these folks parrot. I have an associate who would come to work daily and I need not to have turned on Fox. He spouted their daily rant nearly verbatim. And this is a highly educated man. 

When it’s political as is the factless claim that “Biden is a crook”, it is laughable and so predictable as this is the go-to slam from the right about all who are not them. 

When it is about a deadly epidemic it kills.
The manure that flows through their tiny typing fingers: “masks don’t work, it is going away, we have turned the corner, hydroxychloroquine is a cure, it is nothing serious, almost no one is dying, we shouldn’t need to change our lives, and now most outrageously doctors profit from falsely claiming people have or have died from Covid when they haven’t is potentially deadly. 

Oh yes maybe not to the young and healthy but to some healthy folks there is now a heart condition or lung condition and to someone on chemo or frail next door or at church or at the supermarket a death sentence. 

A friend related her daughter was heckled for wearing a mask. So much for that “freedom” these fools yell about. 

Wasn’t she free to protect herself? 

It seems “freedom “is really the right to impose your views and will on others. Same with “religious freedom” in those circles. 

So it goes. From the mouths of the disinformation machine to the ears of the fools who do not fact check and then vomit the propaganda to others. Sad that we have come to this point. Sad that you can’t simply say: maybe the doctors know something here or I disagree with Mr. Biden’s policies but know he’s a good person. 

Sad. So very sad. 

Be safe

Fact check in legitimate fact checking sites.

Find peace.

Mainlining. That’s what it’s called when folks inject drugs directly into a vein. Rapid onset of effects. ...

Posted by John Cox on Saturday, October 31, 2020

Friday, October 30, 2020

Joplin confirms 45 COVID-19 cases


 Forty-five COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Joplin during a 24-hour period, raising the city's count to 2,316 cases.

The number of people who are in isolation increased from 219 to 268.

Joplin has recorded 36 deaths due to COVID-19.

Joplin R-8 Board hires three teachers, 31 classified employees, 25 subs, accepts retirement

During a closed session Tuesday, the Joplin R-8 Board of Education hired three teachers, 31 classified employees, 25 substitutes and accepted one retirement. 

Certified Employments- Chelsie Brooks, Marla Burns, Dakota Newby

Retirement- Christine McWilliams

Classified Employments- Kaitlyn Barker, Lana Bibee, Billy Bresee, Kimberly Bronson, Shannon Caylor, Steven Chartier, Aubre Conway-Owen, Jennifer Cooper, Carrie Givens, Shelli Goldman, Scott Hasty, Callyn Hinderliter, Gabryele Johnson, Nathan Keizer, Brian Knight, Ashley Meyer, Haley Pence, Kim Powell, Angelique Prough, Lauren Purser, Jammie Quirk, Anastasia Santillan, Rosemarie Saragusa, Travis Scheerer, Amy Selman, Annie Stratton, Erin Taber, Sarah Tillery, Braylee Vasquez, Richard Whitman, Lorina Winegar.

Substitutes- Morgan Campbell, Jacob Spencer, Jenessa Field, Rebecca Myers, Danny Estrada, Karla Theilen, Paul Johnson, Heidi Pim, Justin McKee, Donna Culp, Gayola Dodson, Megan Perry, Susan Gallaway, Emma Leigh Pierson, Chelsea Adolphson, Ilia Arefiev, Megan Keller, Jadeth James, Stacey Johnson, Halli Robinson, Bailey Wallace, Michael D. Richardson, Eli Bingman, Mariah Vazquez, Ken Mikolasko

Trial court arraignment Monday for Joplin man charged with murder, abuse of two-year-old Jameson Long

The trial court arraignment of Brian O'Grodnick, 22, Joplin, charged with first degree murder and six counts of felony child abuse is scheduled for 9 a.m. Monday in Jasper County Circuit Court with Judge Gayle Crane presiding.

O'Grodnick, who is being held on no bond in the Jasper County Jail, was originally charged with four counts of child abuse, but two additional counts and the murder charge were filed following the results of an autopsy of two-year-old Jameson Long.

O'Grodnick allegedly killed the child by repeatedly hitting him, according to the probable cause statement.

The abuse took place May 30 to May 31, at a home at 1920 E. 8th Street in Joplin. The child died June 2 at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City.

The other felony counts of child abuse involved allegations of abuse from six incidents in April and May. Those beatings were captured on video.

O'Grodnick was bound over for trial following a September preliminary hearing.

Joplin man's trial for first degree murder scheduled to begin November 10

The trial of Michael J. Osborne, 32, Joplin, on first degree murder and armed criminal action charges, is scheduled to begin Tuesday, November 10, in Jasper County Circuit Court with Judge Dean Dankelson presiding. The trial will be held in the former Joplin Public Library building and is expected to last three days.

Osborne was bound over for trial following an April 11 preliminary hearing.

The probable cause statement say witnesses indicate Osborne, 32, stabbed Shawn Rockers, 27, Joplin, to death and threatened to kill him a week earlier at the same address at which the murder took place.

The probable cause statement is printed below:

On 1-11-2019 at 302 S. Connor Ave. in Joplin, Jasper County, Missouri, Michael J. Osborne committed the offense of murder in the first degree and armed criminal action.

Osborne committed murder in the first degree by stabbing victim Shawn Rockers in the chest with a knife.

Roberts was transported to Freeman Hospital where he passed away due to the extent of the injury from the knife wound. A witness on scene observed Osborne stab Rockers in the chest with the knife. The witness was able to positively identify Osborne through a photo lineup.

(Another) witness stated that Osborne was at the residence of 302 S. Connor approximately seven days ago and had an altercation with Rockers. (She) said she heard Osborne state that he was going to kill Rockers.

A pre-trial conference is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Monday, November 2.

Oklahoma reports 20 COVID-19 deaths

(From the Oklahoma State Department of Health)

As of this advisory, there are 121,495 cases of COVID-19 in Oklahoma. 

There are 20 additional deaths identified to report. Four deaths were identified in the past 24 hours.

One in Bryan County, one female in the 65 or older age group.
Five in Cleveland County, two males in the 50 - 64 age group and three males in the 65 or older age group.
One in Grant County, one female in the 65 or older age group.
Two in McClain County, one female and one male in the 65 or older age group.

One in McCurtain County, one male in the 65 or older age group.
One in Ottawa County, one male in the 50 - 64 age group.
One in Payne County, one male in the 65 or older age group.
One in Tillman County, one female in the 65 or older age group.
Five in Tulsa County, one male in the 50 - 64 age group and two females and two males in the 65 or older age group.
One in Wagoner County, one female in the 65 or older age group.
One in Washington County, one male in the 65 or older age group.

There are 1,326 total deaths in the state.

For more information, visit

Greene County reports six more COVID-19 deaths, 77 this month

(From the Springfield-Greene County Health Department)

The Springfield-Greene County Health Department is saddened to announce the deaths of six Greene County residents from COVID-19.

Our community lost:

A woman in her 50s
A man in his 60s
A woman in her 70s

A man in his 70s
A man in his 80s
A man in his 90s

The Health Department extends our condolences to everyone impacted by these losses.

Seventy-seven deaths have been reported by the Health Department in October. A total of 154 Greene County residents have died from COVID-19.

Billy Long: We must maintain the integrity of the Supreme Court

(From Seventh District Congressman Billy Long)

On Monday, October 26, Justice Amy Coney Barrett took a Constitutional oath to serve on the Supreme Court following a 52-48 Senate vote to confirm her nomination; not a single Democrat voted for her, not one despite her outstanding qualifications. 

Justice Barrett’s confirmation is a victory for the Constitution and the rule of law. Justice Barrett will be a fair arbiter and let the rule of law guide her decision-making, not personal beliefs. I applaud President Trump for picking an exemplary nominee and the Senate for confirming her.

The so called “tolerant left” has established a 3-decade-plus-long track record of contentious Supreme Court nominations wherein partisanship, character assassinations, and witch-hunts became the standard not the exception. 

Every escalation and every act of aggression has come from the Democrats; the American people’s decision to elect President Trump to the highest office in the land in 2016 only proved to exacerbate their bad behavior. 

The Democrats seem to have managed to dig a crawl space below the basement of their all- time low. While very unbecoming and uncalled for, it hasn’t always been like this. 

For the first two hundred years, Supreme Court nominations were generally civil, polite, and free from partisanship, drawing little push back from the opposing party. 

Judicial candidates were judged on their qualifications alone, and upon the rare occasion where the nominee was rejected, it had nothing to do with political affiliations. 

Unfortunately, this level of decorum came to a screeching halt in 1987 when a Democrat-controlled Senate shamefully defeated the nomination of one of the most respected lawyers in the country, Judge Robert Bork simply because he was conservative. 

Tragically, the Democrats got away with it. Four years later, President George H.W. Bush nominated Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, and Democrats once again engaged in what Justice Thomas rightly called “a high-tech lynching of a conservative black man who dared to disagree with the rich white liberals.” 

This time, however, the American people were wise to their games, and their attempts to scuttle his nomination failed. In 1992, when the shoe was on the other foot, Senate Republicans did not respond in-kind with Senate Democrats; Republicans chose instead to take the high road.

Under the category of “no good deed goes unpunished” our good faith was not reciprocated by the Democrats; their attacks only became more vicious, and a decade later, for the first time in history, Senate Democrats filibustered the nomination of Miguel Estrada. 

In fact, they filibustered his nomination an astounding 7 times accompanied by irreparable attacks and blatantly racist assertions. 

That day, Democrats ushered in an era of unprecedented obstructionism that, when paired with the most disgusting antics, opened a chasm in our judicial process that may never be filled. 

Their long history of attacks reached an all-time low when they openly tormented Justice Kavanaugh with devastating and unsubstantiated allegations that will follow his innocent children around for the rest of their lives. 

Further, the ways in which they exploited and used Dr. Ford under the guise of “believing and protecting victims” confirmed to the American public their brutal “no holds barred” brand of partisanship was here to stay. I knew better than to believe that President Trump nominating an extremely qualified and respected woman would dissuade Democrats from their poor behavior, but Justice Barrett’s hellish nomination process proved they have no intention of changing their spots. 

From the moment she was nominated, Democrats indicated they want to engage in unprecedented new lows by changing 150 years of our country’s norms by packing the Supreme Court. They have sent a resounding and chilling message to the American people that they do not want Justices who will engage in unbiased executions of the law; they would much rather see activist judges who will legislate from the bench and help Democrats achieve their political goals. 

The threat becomes far more concerning when faced with the real possibility that Joe Biden could be elected president and fulfill his promise to nominate a committee to study expanding the Supreme Court. 

I suppose the fact that past presidents have tried that—and failed miserably—is of no consequence to him. Speaker Pelosi has also expressed an openness to the idea saying her party should “take a look and see.” Radical left Representatives Ocasio-Cortez and Omar joined in, sharing that they believe Democrats should definitely move to expand the courts. 

Democrats have established a disturbing and disgraceful history of one-sided partisanship by politicizing Supreme Court nominations and have signaled to the American people that they no longer want the Supreme Court to be a non-partisan, separate branch of government. 

Their brazen attempts to use the judicial branch as a means of passing their radical socialist policies is both a disgusting and dangerous attempt to circumvent our laws by shredding the Constitution and engaging in a takeover that will fundamentally alter the way our nation is governed. 

Our founding fathers brilliantly crafted a series of checks and balances by establishing three equal branches of government, and they understood the value of separating the preservation and execution of the law from political ideologies. 

I believe that it is critical we maintain the integrity of the Supreme Court and our justice system by continuing to appoint justices who will enforce the laws, not bend to the will of a particular political party. 

Former Vice President Biden claims he doesn’t want the Supreme Court to become a “political football”, but worse yet it will become the reincarnation of “The Creature from the Black Lagoon’” A.K.A “Swamp” if the Democrats get their way, and that’s why we have a duty to stop that from ever happening. 

Arkansas reports six COVID-19 deaths, 1,162 new cases

(From Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson)

Governor Asa Hutchinson provided today's update on Arkansas's COVID-19 response.

In its Friday update, the Arkansas Department of Health reported 1,162 new cases; 9,796 active cases; 668 hospitalized, which is up 2 from Thursday; 101 on ventilators, which is up 1 from Thursday; deaths added today, 6, for a total of 1,900; a total of 110,874 cases; 92,827 recoveries; PCR tests, 11,069; antigen tests, 1,329.

The Health Department reported that the top counties for new cases are Benton, 101; Washington, 95; Pulaski, 92; Sebastian, 53; and Craighead, 46.

Governor Hutchinson released the following statement on today’s COVID-19 numbers:

"Although our total of new cases today is lower than last Friday, we cannot grow weary in our preventative measures against this virus. As we go into the weekend, let's all be mindful of the guidance from the Arkansas Department of Health on how to have a safe Halloween."

Attorney General announces crackdown on massage parlors- don't let them rub you the wrong way

(From Attorney General Eric Schmitt)

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced earlier this month a new, first of its kind initiative to combat instances of human trafficking by targeting illicit massage businesses across the state.

The Hope Initiative targets illicit massage businesses that may be engaging in human trafficking and advertising on illicit websites while posing as a legitimate business. The initiative’s first phase has already resulted in 50 percent of landlords either starting the eviction process, committing to start the eviction process, or refusing to renew leases on tenants in question.

“Human trafficking is a global scourge that affects millions, including and especially here in Missouri. Using the legitimate massage business as a front, traffickers set up shop in strip malls or other commercial businesses and operate illicit massage parlors, often unbeknownst to the landlord,” said Attorney General Schmitt. 

“Through the Hope Initiative, which is the first of its kind, we’re working with partners across the state to identify and evict these illicit massage businesses, and in certain cases, take additional legal action. We want to send the message to anyone who is listening that the Missouri Attorney General’s Office will take action wherever possible to keep traffickers out of Missouri.”

The Hope Initiative is a three-phase, continuing effort to evict illicit massage businesses that are advertising on websites like Backpage, CityXGuide, Rubmaps, and more.

The first phase, which has already produced results, entailed the Attorney General’s Office sending out letters to 77 landlords informing them of their tenant’s potentially illegal activity by advertising on illicit websites and urging them to evict said tenant. As the initiative progresses, more letters will be sent to additional businesses. More often than not, the landlords are largely unaware of their tenant’s illegal activity. Since sending that letter on September 4, 2020, 41 of those 77 landlords have responded:

-23 have either been removed via eviction, are no longer a tenant, or the landlord will not renew their lease;

-17 have indicated to the Attorney General’s Office that they are committed to removing the tenants but have not begun the eviction process yet;
One landlord has refused to evict.

The letters cite several statutes related to public nuisance, certain lines from the St. of Missouri v. Golden Massage ruling that bolsters that illicit massage businesses are illegal, and a copy of the Rubmaps ad for that business. Additional letters will soon be sent to landlords who did not respond.

To identify the locations of the illicit massage businesses, the Attorney General’s Office partnered with non-profit Heyrick Research, who scraped known websites that advertise illicit massages and prostitution to build a list of illicit massage businesses across the state.

The next two phases entail potential lawsuits and/or criminal cases. The objective of the initiative is to continually work with landlords to evict illicit massage businesses, but the Attorney General’s Office has been in contact with prosecutors and law enforcement across the state as we move forward in the initiative.

Across the United States, traffickers use the legitimate massage therapy industry as a front for human trafficking. Polaris Project (2018) estimates there are approximately 9,000 illicit massage businesses operating in the U.S. Missourians should be aware of the following signs that may indicate an illicit massage business:

Prices below market - this incentivizes the masseuse to earn tips
Male-only clientele
Customers entering and exiting through rear or side entrances
Business is open late at night
Windows are blocked off so that you can’t see inside
Doors are locked requiring customers to be “buzzed in”
Business website contains sexual innuendo or references to the appearance of the masseuse
Online reviews describing sex acts
The masseuse(s) appear to live on-site

A full description of illicit massage businesses can be found here:

Missourians are urged to report all instances of human trafficking to the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.

Landlords who believe that their tenant is engaging in illicit activity while maintaining the appearance of being a legitimate business are urged to report those tenants here:

Walmart pulls guns, ammunition from displays, officials cite possible civil unrest following presidential election

Walmart corporate officials have removed guns and ammunition from their shelves citing fears that people may break into their stores and steal them if any civil unrest occurs as a result of the presidential election Tuesday.

Customers can still buy them in the Walmart stores that sell those items, but they will not be on display.

From USA Today:

"We have seen some isolated civil unrest and as we have done on several occasions over the last few years, we have moved our firearms and ammunition off the sales floor as a precaution for the safety of our associates and customers," Walmart said in a statement to USA TODAY. "These items do remain available for purchase by customers.”

Crime vs. COVID- Parson, Galloway make closing arguments in governor's race

By Rudi Keller

In their final push to election day, Republican Gov. Mike Parson and his Democratic challenger, State Auditor Nicole Galloway, aim to turn out base voters and win over undecided Missourians by linking their opponent to unpopular policies of others.

For Parson, that means an emphasis on supporting law enforcement over protesters demanding police reforms and trying to marry Galloway to calls by more liberal Democrats like 1st Congressional District nominee Cori Bush to “defund” the police and military.

“My opponent endorses people who want to defund the military,” Parson said at a Columbia campaign stop on Tuesday. “If you run with that crowd, you are that crowd. That is just the way this world works.”

For Galloway, it means a focus on health care and the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that Republicans, including Parson, have solidly opposed expanding Medicaid. Democrats also point out that Parson has not disavowed legislative candidate Rick Roeber, accused by his adult children of sexually abusing them when they were young.

“Every single time that you seize power from the politicians in Jefferson City at the ballot box, they are working to undermine your vote because they are saying over and over again that those insiders in Jefferson City know better than you,” Galloway said to a gathering of Democrats in Columbia on Thursday.

In a race where spending is approaching $43 million, polls have consistently shown Parson with a lead, albeit narrower in recent surveys than it was earlier in the year.

Sheriff vs. accountant

The candidates followed different political roads to their current positions.

Parson, 65, was a county sheriff, state representative and state senator before being elected lieutenant governor in 2016. When former Gov. Eric Greitens resigned in 2018 amid allegations he engaged in sexually violent misconduct in 2015 and investigations of his fundraising, Parson became the first governor since 1857 to take office on resignation.

Galloway, 38, is a certified public accountant who rose to prominence in the Democratic Party through the patronage of former Gov. Jay Nixon, who appointed her Boone County Treasurer in 2011 and auditor in 2015.

Galloway in 2018 became the first Democrat to win a statewide election since 2012 when she earned a full term as auditor, solidifying her position as the party’s leader.

Missouri was once a bellwether state in presidential elections but has become reliably Republican nationally since the 2008 election, when Barack Obama narrowly lost the state. It has elected a Democrat as governor in five of the last 10 elections.

But in a race that could be decided by turnout, especially in the suburbs, political observers say neither candidate is generating the electricity that would show clear momentum.

“My first impression is that it has been a surprisingly uninspiring gubernatorial campaign, particularly on the Parson side,” said Peverill Squire, professor of political science at the University of Missouri in Columbia.

He said health care, and especially the COVID-19 response, could well decide the race.

“The big question mark for that race is what happens in the suburbs,” Squire said, “particularly outside St. Louis, and whether moderate Republicans, who may not be happy with the state response on the virus, will be enough to tip the race to Galloway.”

Protests and police

On May 25, George Floyd died in Minneapolis after a police officer put his knee to Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes as he lay prone and handcuffed. The death ignited protests nationally.

In many cities, including St. Louis, the protests turned violent and, after four police officers were wounded by gunfire, Mayor Lyda Krewson imposed a 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew.

When Krewson read publicly the names and addresses of people who wrote demanding she defund the police, protesters targeted her, going to her home on a private street.

Two residents of the neighborhood, attorneys Mark and Patricia McCloskey, reacted to the presence of the protesters by standing in front of their homes with guns.

That made them instant celebrities in conservative circles — even earning them a spot speaking to the Republican National Convention. Now they are under indictment for unlawful use of a weapon, and Parson has promised to pardon them if convicted.

“I will not use politics to go after people like the McCloskeys because they did everything under the Constitution to protect themselves,” Parson said during his campaign stop in Columbia.

Parson always reminds audiences that he enlisted in the Army after high school and returned home for a career in law enforcement that included 12 years as Polk County Sheriff. He then contrasts that with Galloway’s endorsements of candidates like Bush who have called for defunding police.

“I would never turn my back on law enforcement or the military of this country,” Parson said.

Galloway has repeatedly dissociated herself from the views of more liberal Democrats, accusing Parson of trying to distract voters from his own record.

“I don’t support defunding the police,” she said on Thursday. “I don’t support defunding the Pentagon. And Gov. Parson wants to play these games of guilt by association because he can’t defend his own leadership.”

The law-and-order issue may have faded in importance, Squire said, and focusing on it does not expand Parson’s constituency.

“It is one of those campaign themes that looked like it was going to play well back in May and June,” he said. “In October, it may not resonate as much. We are in a year now that two or three months ago seems like a lifetime.”

The pandemic

When the year began, Missouri had an unemployment rate of 3.1 percent, state revenues were increasing fast enough to anticipate the next step in a phased-in income tax cut and polling showed Parson with a double-digit lead.

The issue no one foresaw as a top concern for 2020 was controlling a deadly virus that seems to be spreading out of control, even infecting Parson and his wife, Teresa.

When the pandemic reached Missouri in March, Parson resisted a state stay-at-home order and didn’t direct schools to close until every one of the state’s 555 school districts and charter schools had already switched to virtual education.

After a partial shutdown that ended May 4, Missouri seemed to have a handle on the pandemic, with the average number of new cases down to 145 per day from almost 250 a day a month earlier.

On July 1, Missouri had about 22,000 cases and 1,017 deaths, 40th among 50 states and the District of Columbia for per capita infection rates and 28th for per capita deaths. By that time, cases numbers were rising and the Department of Health and Senior Services reported more than 1,000 cases for the first time on July 21.

Since that date, excluding days when the state did not report or was adjusting published data, there have been only 12 days with fewer than 1,000 cases and totals have risen to almost 175,000 cases and 2,870 deaths through Wednesday.

Since July 1, Missouri is 18th nationally in per capita cases and 15th for per capita deaths. On Thursday, new hospitalizations in the St. Louis region hit a new high of 72, which officials called “heartbreaking.”

Throughout the year, Parson has relied on letting decisions on COVID-19 take place at the local level, from whether to re-open schools this fall or mandating masks to limit spread of the disease.

In the friendly surroundings of the annual Missouri Cattlemen’s Steak Fry — Parson, who raises cattle in Polk County, is a member — Parson was defiant about whether to issue a mask order.

“And you don’t need government to tell you to wear a dang mask,” Parson said to cheers and applause. “If you want to wear a mask, wear a mask.”

Parson argues that Galloway wants to shut the state down in response to coronavirus.

At her Columbia event, Galloway said she doesn’t want to shut the state down but she would issue an order requiring face masks in public.

Parson, she said, is responsible for cases rates spiking.

On Thursday, a new high was set with 3,061 cases, with the seven-day average at 2,138 per day. Rural counties with fewer than 50,000 people, which make up about one-quarter of the state’s population, have reported more than one-third of the new cases this month.

Parson only grudgingly issued the shut-down order, Galloway said, and Missouri families gave up income, time with family and graduations to get the disease under control.

“Then he opened the state up without any plan to keep us safe and here we are,” Galloway said. “It seems like we gave up all of that spring for nothing.”

The governor’s pandemic response is playing well in conservative southeast Missouri, said Jeremy Walling, professor of political science at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau.

“It feels like where I am that his is the one that is resonating more than hers,” Walling said of the contrasting COVID-19 responses.

If voters believe more should be done, it will work to Galloway’s favor, said Daniel Ponder, a political science professor at Drury University in Springfield.

As he campaigns, Parson paints the coronavirus issue as an economic problem. The state has regained two-thirds of the jobs lost in the spring and unemployment is fifth-lowest in the country, he notes.

“If you shut this place down again I guarantee you, Main Street Missouri, mom and pop businesses, are not going to make it if we do that,” Parson said.

Galloway and Democrats, however, want voters to think of the state’s COVID response in larger terms, including efforts by Republicans to abolish the Affordable Care Act through a court decision.

“Can you imagine if you think it is your job to take away health care in the midst of a pandemic,” state Rep. Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia, said as he introduced Galloway on Thursday. “We need a governor right now who will demand implementation of expanded health care in the midst of a pandemic, upholding the will of the people who spoke just a few short months ago.”

Parson doesn’t accept that he should be responsible for the course of the pandemic.

“Everybody wants to blame somebody for the virus, and there’s nobody to blame,” he told reporters on Tuesday. “You know, it’s a virus and we all got to be able to deal with it and I think we have.”

The virus must be endured until there is a vaccine, which Parson said is “months away” for most people.

Lay of the land

In 2016, while Donald Trump was rolling to a 19 percent landslide victory in Missouri with 57 percent of the vote, Greitens won the governor’s office with only 51.1 percent and U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt was re-elected with only 49.1 percent.

None of the academic observers think Trump is in any trouble in Missouri this year, but they do expect his margin to diminish. Shorter coattails may be the opportunity for Galloway, they agreed.

And while Republicans have been very successful in statewide and local elections in the past decade, voters have given large margins to ballot measures generally endorsed by Democrats and opposed by Republicans, Ponder said.

Those ballot measures include an increasing minimum wage, voting down a Right to Work law and legalizing medical marijuana, all in 2018.

The statistics of where each of those measures passed, compared to where Republicans have earned their majorities, provides a path for Democrats, Ponder said.

Most passed, he noted, with big majorities in areas where the GOP is strongest/

“That could lead to a Galloway upset,” Ponder said, “opening it for her or some other Democrat in the future.”

(Top photo- Nicole Galloway speaks at a campaign rally in Columbia Thursday; bottom photo- Mike Parson speaking October 27 in Columbia. Photos by Rudi Keller, Missouri Independent)

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Joplin confirms 26 COVID-19 cases


Twenty-six COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Joplin, according to statistics posted on the city's COVID-19 dashboard.

The new cases bring the city's total to 2,209, including 219 people in isolation.

The city has recorded 36 deaths due to COVID-19.

Arkansas reports 19 COVID-19 deaths

(From Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson)

Governor Asa Hutchinson provided today's update on Arkansas's COVID-19 response.

In its Thursday update, the Arkansas Department of Health reported 1,072 new cases; 9,466 active cases; 666 hospitalized, which is up 4 from Wednesday; 100 on ventilators, which is up 1 from Wednesday; deaths added today, 19, for a total of 1,894; a total of 109,712 cases; 92,172 recoveries; PCR tests, 10,906; antigen tests, 1,241.

The Health Department reported that the top counties for new cases are Garland, 108; Pulaski, 95; Washington, 90; Benton, 76; and Craighead, 52.

Governor Hutchinson released the following statement on today’s COVID-19 numbers:

"As I typically do, I looked back at last Thursday's cases and compared them to today. We had 1,202 total new cases last Thursday compared to 1,072 today. This decrease was also recorded with an increase in total testing from this time last week. 

"While these numbers may provide some encouragement, we know that we still have a long way to go to beat COVID-19."

Missouri county health agencies struggling to get federal COVID-19 funds

By Tessa Weinberg
Missouri Independent

In Ripley County, if you want to get tested for the novel coronavirus, your options are limited.

It’s been two years since the county’s hospital closed its doors. An urgent care clinic that offers COVID tests has opened in its place, but it’s only open weekdays. Sometimes mobile drive-through testing sites come through. But many residents simply drive 30 miles to Poplar Bluff or across the state line to Arkansas to find one, said Jan Morrow, the director of the Ripley County Public Health Center.

An Abbott machine that would allow them to conduct rapid COVID tests was supposed to arrive at the beginning of the month. But it’s on backorder. And Morrow will probably need to hire someone to administer those tests.

Morrow has had to make decisions on what supplies are essential all while hoping purchases and time will be reimbursed through CARES Act funds. She’s received more than $58,000 so far for the months of March through June, with more on the way.

Others aren’t so lucky.

In Shelby County, the public health department has only been approved for $7,000 out of the $32,000 requested, said Audrey Gough, the department’s administrator. And in the absence of CARES Act funding, she’s had to dip into the department’s savings to get by.

Local governments throughout the state were allocated roughly $520.9 million in CARES Act funding based on population, and county commissioners who are tasked with allocating those funds say they’re trying to ensure all entities — from schools to nursing homes — are able to get a share.

Local public health administrators interviewed by The Independent said they believe funds should have been directly allocated to health departments from the start, just like they were for school districts. Some described the process to apply for CARES Act funds as “cumbersome,” “frustrating,” “a chore,” and “a mess” that has left their departments behind in a public health emergency.

All the while, local health officials told The Independent that in the midst of dealing with an unprecedented public health emergency they’re experiencing an “emotional rollercoaster” as they try to curb the virus firsthand while sometimes facing backlash from their communities.

“They’re our frontline soldiers,” said Lynelle Phillips, the vice president of the Missouri Public Health Association. “And we’re sending them into a pandemic perfect storm in a leaky little fishing boat.”

Discrepancies in funding

Cities and counties with populations over 500,000 — which included the counties of St. Louis and Jackson in Missouri — were directly allocated a portion of the Coronavirus Relief Fund included in the CARES Act.

Under the supplemental appropriation bill Missouri lawmakers passed in April, the remaining counties received 25 percent of the state’s CARES Act funds, divvied up based on population.

Public health departments have had varying degrees of success in securing CARES Act funds from their county commissioners.

According to a survey of local public health agencies by The Kansas City Star, of the 50 that responded, four health departments said they have not seen any CARES Act funds, while others have seen only a fraction of what they need.

Different counties have set their own priorities, while interpretations have differed on what counts as a reimbursable expense.

In Shelby County, Gough’s biggest need is for her staff to be compensated for the long hours they’re putting in. While her request for overtime was approved, using CARES Act funds to cover regular pay was not.

“I didn’t plan for a pandemic, just like you wouldn’t plan to have your roof blow off your house in a year’s time,” Gough said. “I’m sure you didn’t budget for something tragic like that going on, but you still have to replace the roof on your house. That’s the way COVID is.”

Guidance from the U.S. Department of the Treasury notes that the “full amount” of payroll and benefits may be covered through the CARES Act for employees “substantially dedicated” to responding to the pandemic, such as public health workers.

That’s the way Cheryl Eversole, the administrator of the Dallas County Health Department, said she interprets it.

“But that is not how it is being interpreted in Dallas County,” Eversole said.

Glenn Eagan, Shelby County’s presiding commissioner and emergency management director, said that while the commission understands regular hours can qualify for CARES Act funds, it ultimately decided that the health department’s normal budget should cover those hours.

Commissioners have had to balance the public health department’s needs, along with a slew of requests from others, from their fire departments to their nursing homes.

Dick Burke, the executive director of the Missouri Association of Counties, said he thinks counties are trying to do the right thing, but that it can be hard to find the right answer amid changing guidance.

“Nobody saw this coming,” Burke said. “And we certainly didn’t expect to see the counties get three quarters of a billion dollars sent to them in one day, essentially — that just doesn’t happen. And then they all had to come up with a plan.”

The issue of whether wages are an allowable expense under state guidance was “a recurring theme” that Adam Crumbliss, the director of the Department of Health and Senior Services’ Division of Community and Public Health, raised in a Sept. 11 email to State Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick, Health Director Randall Williams, Office of Administration Commissioner Sarah Steelman, Medicaid Director Todd Richardson and Gov. Mike Parson’s deputy chief of staff, Robert Knodell, among others.

In the email, obtained by The Independent through an open records request, Crumbliss wrote that it appears state guidance needs to be clarified to say specifically that both regular and overtime wages are allowable expenses.

“If the governing authority wants to deny them, there should at least be clarity on this matter that they can’t point to the state guidance as the impediment,” Crumbliss wrote. “I don’t believe the governor or treasurer should bear the brunt of scapegoating for those that do not wish to honestly communicate their own disapproval.”

Mary Compton, spokeswoman for Fitzpatrick, wrote in a statement Tuesday that the office’s priority has been ensuring federal guidance is accessible to all counties, through multiple conference calls, answering specific questions and the office’s COVID website.

“The treasurer is not concerned with who is bearing the brunt of scapegoating,” Compton wrote. “He is concerned with ensuring local governments have the resources and answers they need to make necessary decisions.”

Kelli Jones, the governor’s spokeswoman, pointed to the General Assembly as the entity that decided counties would be the best caretakers for CARES Act funds locally, and said that Parson distributed funds based on the budget they passed.

“The governor has continuously advocated, and spent many press briefings, urging counties to provide funding to their respective (local public health authority)” Jones wrote in an email Tuesday, noting Parson’s work with the Treasurer’s Office to streamline the process.

Williams, DHSS’ director, said in a statement Monday that local public health agencies have been “true heroes” and the agency is constantly working to refine its processes.

In an Oct. 28 letter to county officials — his third urging them to use CARES Act funds to support local public health departments — Williams wrote that based on a DHSS survey, local public health departments “have indicated that they have collectively received an estimated 4% of the overall CARES Act funding that was distributed to county governments.”

“We strongly encourage the support for your Local Public Health Agencies (LPHAs) through the use of CARES Act funding,” Williams wrote. “While needs vary from county to county, what is synonymous across all counties in Missouri is that the public health systems and resources have been stretched extremely thin.”

But public health directors say the onus is on the state — which they believe should have handled the distribution of funds differently from the beginning.

Another option

In response to local public health authorities’ issues, the Treasurer’s Office introduced an optional “memorandum of understanding,” in late August that would hold public health departments liable — rather than the counties themselves — for up to 15 percent of the county’s CARES Act funding.

Distributions of CARES Act funds must be meticulously documented, and if improperly spent, may have to be returned to the state.

Lisa Cox, a spokeswoman for the state health department, wrote in an email that 16 counties signed MOU agreements with their public health departments, while 14 had declined the option, as of Oct. 26. According to a Sept. 21-24 survey of local public health agencies from DHSS, about 40 counties had not requested the option.

Randy Angst, Laclede County’s presiding commissioner, said the county decided to forgo the MOU option because while it may have shielded the commission from some liability, they were concerned ultimately that the county would be held responsible as the MOU was not federal guidance directly from the U.S. Treasury.

Shelby County received $695,707 in CARES Act funds, but requests have been for nearly double that, totaling roughly $1.4 million, Eagan said. The county also decided against the memorandum option that would have allocated about $104,000 to the public health department if the full 15 percent was given.

“We just didn’t feel like we could give $100,000 of the $700,000 we received to one entity when we had all these other requests,” Eagan said.

The county has prioritized spending to boost its wi-fi and broadband capabilities to ensure students and parents working from home have the internet access they need, Eagan said.

It’s been a confusing and cumbersome process for counties to navigate, too, some with small staffs who are also trying to prepare for the upcoming election.

“Every week it seems to change. Every week, we get a little bit more clear on what we can do with the funds,” said Chris May, Sullivan County’s presiding commissioner who has worked closely with the local health department to meet their needs.

An unsustainable pace

But as cases rise across the state and take hold in more rural areas, public health departments say they need resources now — not later.

Since the beginning of October, counties with fewer than 50,000 people, with one-quarter of the state’s population, have accounted for more than one-third of the new COVID-19 cases.

“It was like dangling a carrot in front of us knowing it was out there and not being able to get it,” Juanita Welker, the administrator of the Bollinger County Health Center, said of CARES Act funds. Bollinger County, with 12,133 people, has the state’s eighth-highest overall infection rate.

Time spent applying for funds and filling out paperwork is time that can’t be spent working to respond to the pandemic at hand, administrators said. Their staff are working seven days a week and it’s a pace that’s unsustainable.

“With the influx of cases on top of our normal workload, there’s never enough hours in the day,” said Deborah Taylor, administrator of the Sullivan County Public Health Department. Her staff of five serves a county with 6,089 people with more than 300 COVID-19 cases, the second-highest infection rate in the state and fifth-highest for October.

When public health directors have tried to take a few days off, they recounted having to come back early to deal with COVID outbreaks in their areas. And it’s taken an emotional toll as they face backlash from communities some have known their entire lives.

“I’m the face of public health, so I’m the face of quarantine, I’m the face of isolation, I’m the face of we don’t get to play football,” Gough said.

Eversole, in Dallas County, said she avoids going to the grocery store to steer clear of confrontations and names that she sometimes gets called.

In Crumbliss’ September email, he recounted fielding calls from local public health staff “in crisis” and recommended expanding state guidance to make clear that mental health services for healthcare workers are allowable expenses under CARES Act funds.

“We have heard from many that have been in recovery from alcohol or abuse situations that have found themselves in relapse in recent months,” Crumbliss wrote. “I am also aware that some public health staff have found themselves in moments of crisis with consideration of irreversible actions.”

For local public health agencies, the entire process represents a manifestation of the disinvestment in public health that they’ve seen happening on the ground for years. From 2017 to 2019, Missouri ranked last in the nation in terms of per capita state funding for public health, according to an analysis from the State Health Access Data Assistance Center located at the University of Minnesota.

Jill Holland, a physical therapist who lives in Doniphan, has seen the virus’ impact firsthand after her elderly grandparents both contracted COVID-19 this summer. Even before the pandemic, it had felt like Ripley County had been forgotten, Holland said.

“We need help down here,” Holland said. “We need someone to act like they care.”

The Independent’s Rudi Keller contributed to this story.