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Moniteau County has seen a sudden spike in coronavirus cases, with numbers rising more rapidly than any other time this year.

In the past week, Moniteau County has added nearly 80 cases as of Tuesday, bringing the total number of cases since March from 400 to 485. Of that number, 78 cases are currently active — six of which are hospitalized.

Fifteen new cases were added to the tally Tuesday, the fourth instance of double-digit new cases reported in one day in the past week.

Active cases in Moniteau County have not dipped below 40 since Sept. 22.

The county's sixth coronavirus death was also reported Tuesday.

The rash of new cases has caused Moniteau County to rise back into the top three of 13 Mid-Missouri counties in total cases per 10,000 members of the population.

Darrell Hendrickson, environmental specialist with the Moniteau County Health Center, said the spike in cases is likely not due to any one specific event but rather is because there isn't enough happening at an individual level to prevent spread of the spread of the virus that is already in the community.

"It is our belief that the virus is in the community, and we're just not doing a very good job as citizens to protect ourselves," Hendrickson said.

Contact tracing points to COVID-19 naturally spreading throughout Moniteau County, Hendrickson said, which is probably occurring at the current rate because the county's residents aren't doing a good job adhering to public health measures like social distancing and wearing masks.

These guidelines continue to be key, he said.

"We've noticed that there seems to be a good degree of complacency," Hendrickson said. "There's also a degree of mistrust that maybe the virus isn't as contagious as it is. The individuals that we talk to have shared with us (things like) 'I thought I was doing the right thing' or they knew they weren't feeling well but haven't stopped their daily activities."

Hendrickson said conversations through contact tracing have revealed people who were feeling unwell but continued attending work regardless, later testing positive.

Staying home if one is feeling sick is another guideline public health entities have been recommending since early in the pandemic.

Hendrickson said it's difficult to predict whether Moniteau County's recent uptick in new cases will continue, but it is more likely when people who have tested positive or are displaying signs of the virus continue not to self-quarantine.

"If I've got one individual that's positive and they give it to two or three others, my numbers just continue to grow exponentially," Hendrickson said. "We need to just take a breath a minute and think about what we can do to keep ourselves safe and keep our families safe, and that's not business as usual in our lives."

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