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The News Tribune is offering this article free to all readers because it includes information important to public safety and health in our community.

The Cole County Health Department has reported a sudden rise in the number of cases of COVID-19.

The county reported 63 new cases Oct. 8, a jump from 27 new cases the previous day, the Health Department's website shows. The county showed 61 new cases Friday and 52 new cases Saturday.

Much of the rise resulted from several new cases at Algoa Correctional Center in Jefferson City, Cole County Health Department Director Kristi Campbell said. Algoa went from one COVID-19-positive case among offenders to 84 in about three weeks, it was reported last week. Seventeen staff members have also tested positive.

Missouri Department of Corrections staff who live in Cole County would be counted among the county's case numbers but not inmates as the state Department of Health and Senior Services reports those separately, Campbell said.

Some cases associated with area schools were reflected in Cole County's recent increase, she said.

Proper hygiene remains a focus of the county's message to residents.

"We continue to emphasize enhanced personal hygiene practices (washing hands, covering coughs and sneezes, etc.), increased disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces, social distancing, wearing masks when appropriate and limiting large gatherings of those outside of your household," Campbell said.

Compared to March and April, when businesses and schools were closed, there have recently been many more cases caused by close contacts, she said.

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"We continue to watch all the factors, including testing capacity, testing numbers, hospitalizations, recovery rate, exposure source and positivity rate," she said. "On a national level, there are recent studies that show exposures are occurring at bars and restaurants where physical distancing is difficult, and people are eating and drinking. We would recommend that patrons at restaurants and bars continue to practice social/physical distancing and be cautious around individuals that are not in their household."

As of 6 p.m. Tuesday, Cole County has reported 2,099 total COVID-19 cases. The county reported 246 active cases and 1,766 patients who have recovered, but those numbers do not account for active cases and recoveries in long-term care facilities. The county has recorded 15 COVID-19 deaths, including seven who were long-term care facility residents.

Symptoms of COVID-19 may include fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, or diarrhea, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For more information about COVID-19, visit the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services website at health.mo.gov/coronavirus or the CDC website at cdc.gov/coronavirus.

Missouri operates a statewide COVID-19 hotline at 877-435-8411 from 7 a.m.-9 p.m. seven days a week.

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