The state prison in Farmington is undergoing at least its second major COVID-19 spike, with 300 detainees and 53 staff members infected. Since the pandemic began, there have been 481 detainees and 108 staffers infected at Farmington. Down the road, also in St. Francois County, the prison at Bonne Terre has 46 active detainee cases and nine staff members affected, bringing its total to 370 detainees infected since the pandemic began, and 103 staff members.
St. Francois County, just south of St. Louis, has one of the highest positivity rates in the state of Missouri, at 37 people per 1,000. It’s a chicken-and-egg question: Is the prison spike feeding the positivity rate, or is it because there is little mask wearing and social distancing in another rural county eschewing mandates and restrictions, continuing to believe that the more than 210,000 deaths nationwide are a hoax?
Missourians should not be surprised by COVID-19 spikes in institutions in rural areas, says Dave Dillon, the spokesman for the Missouri Hospital Association, which has been urging the governor to implement mask mandates and other pandemic restrictions.
“With the high infection rates statewide, smaller communities’ hospital and health care resources are reaching their capacity levels,” Dillon says. “When you look at where the patients are from, many are from outside of the community or even county where the hospital is located. While we can’t prove causation, it certainly correlates that these patients are from communities that have not put strict precautions in place for transmission like mask mandates or social distancing requirements.”