The health department in Missouri’s farthest southwest county is warning residents to avoid gatherings and wear face masks as it works through an avalanche of COVID-19 infections.
The 196 new cases tallied for McDonald County by the state Department of Health and Senior Services matches the number the county’s health department announced earlier on Facebook.
With 88 new cases in Newton County, and 25 new cases in Jasper County, the outbreak associated with Tyson Foods processing plants helped drive Missouri to a new single-day record of new cases, breaking the old one set only Saturday.
The Joplin metro area, which includes Newton and Jasper counties, has the fastest-rising infection rate in the nation.
The McDonald County Health Department reported Sunday on Facebook that it had received the large 196 positive test results, taking the county’s total number of infections to 434. Last Sunday, the county reported three new cases, with 78 total, and on June 1 it had 22.
The McDonald County Health Department could not be reached Sunday for comment.
On Saturday, the health department warned that the massive batch of positive results was coming.
"Due to this increase we recommend avoiding gatherings," the department stated on Facebook. "This means any events that includes more than your immediate family should be avoided."
Missouri reported 413 new cases on Sunday, up 24 from Saturday and more than 60 percent higher than the average daily increase last week. The state has had 18,003 coronavirus infections confirmed by testing since early March.
The Columbia-Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services reported seven new cases in the county, about equal to the average daily increase for the previous week.
There have been 273 cases found by testing in Boone County since mid-March. On Sunday, the department reported that 70 cases were active and 105 people were in quarantine because of exposure.
On Friday, Assistant Director Scott McClardy said the department is "alarmed" by the rapid local increase in cases. The number of total infections in Boone County has increased 23 percent in the past week.
The cases in McDonald County are mainly located in the southwest quadrant of the county around Noel. The Joplin Globe reported Saturday that Tyson Foods had begun widespread COVID-19 testing among workers at its poultry plant in Noel.
The announcement was made Friday, the same day the company released results of testing throughout its operations in Northwest Arkansas, the Globe reported.
In Benton and Washington counties in Northwest Arkansas, 3,748 workers were tested onsite and the company said that 481, or 13%, tested positive, and of those, 455 or nearly 95%, were asymptomatic.
The large increase in southwest Missouri continued the recent trend where the bulk of new cases in the state are occurring outside the state’s largest metro areas. On Sunday, the Kansas City and St. Louis regions reported only 49 of the 413 new infections.
At least one new infection was reported Sunday in 26 local health jurisdictions but the state’s lone county without a case, Hickory County, remained COVID-19-free.