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story.lead_photo.caption This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the spherical particles of the new coronavirus, colorized blue, from the first U.S. case of COVID-19. Antibody blood tests for the coronavirus could play a key role in deciding whether millions of Americans can safely return to work and school. But public health officials warn that the current “Wild West” of unregulated tests is creating confusion that could ultimately slow the path to recovery. (Hannah A. Bullock, Azaibi Tamin/CDC via AP)

The state's stay-at-home order has expired, but Moniteau County will continue to observe those restrictions until 11:59 p.m. May 10, unless extended by any additional order, public health and government officials said last Thursday.

Moniteau County's extension of the stay-at-home order, which was signed by Moniteau County Health Center Administrator Andrea Kincaid, Moniteau County Presiding Commissioner Mac Finley, and trustees James Canter and Judy Bolinger, took effect beginning at 12:01 a.m. Monday. The extension doesn't place any additional restrictions beyond what is currently in place.

In a release last Thursday, the Health Center cited the current number of active confirmed cases of coronavirus in Moniteau County as grounds for the extension.

As of Tuesday, the Health Center reported there were just 11 active cases in the county, eight of which are probable, with 43 total confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic. Forty individuals have recovered so far. While there have been 46 new active cases across the second half of April, new confirmed cases among Moniteau County citizens have begun to taper off over the past few days — only one new case have been recorded since before last weekend.

The extension also cites the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's criteria for lessening preventative infectious restrictions. This criteria mandates there should be a 14-day downward trajectory in influenza-like illnesses, COVID-19 cases, documented cases and new positive tests, milestones which Kincaid asserted Moniteau County was not yet meeting.

"The rationale behind the extension was to allow for sufficient time for the county to show a steady decline of COVID-19 patients," Moniteau County environmental specialist Darrell Hendrickson said.

Recent active cases in Moniteau County were part of a large influx of COVID-19 cases in the span of April 14-21, namely due to an outbreak at Burgers' Smokehouse, where at least 21 employees were reported as confirmed cases. The plant suspended production April 22, returning last Thursday with more stringent guidelines for employee distancing and safety.

Hendrickson said public health officials are pleased to see a reduction in cases in the county more recently.

"We are getting close to that 14-day decline," Hendrickson said. "Citizens should continue the practice of social distancing. They need to be aware of their surroundings, they need to stay home if they're not feeling well, they need to maintain that 6-foot buffer between other individuals, and they need to avoid large groups."

Hendrickson said if individuals are being personally responsible, the fact that neighboring counties are operating under different ordinances shouldn't be much of a factor on spread in Moniteau County.

"Wearing a mask when you need to, washing your hands frequently — that's personal responsibility, and we should just continue that no matter which county ordinance we're working under," Hendrickson said. "Those fundamentals are going to be the bedrock foundation that we're going to go forth into the foreseeable future with, to make sure we don't have a resurgence of COVID-19, whether we have an (active) county ordinance or not."

Hendrickson said he thinks most individuals are aware that society has entered a new "normal" for the time being — that things won't just snap back to how they were prior to the pandemic. He said building a positive foundation is important.

"We will open up things as time and experience will allow us," Hendrickson said. "We still have to think about football games. We still have to think about (gathering) to watch basketball. Those kinds of things will have to be thought about and planned for as we get farther down the road. Right now, we're just working very diligently trying to beat back the rapid expansion of the virus. Now that we seem to have had that, what's our next building block on top of there to get back as close to normal as we can?"

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