Several local health departments in rural Missouri halted most or all of their COVID-19 monitoring and prevention work after Attorney General Eric Schmitt ordered agencies to comply with a recent court ruling this week .
The decisions of these departments follow the example of Laclede County, which health authorities announced on Thursday that they would cease contact tracing, case investigation and its quarantine policy. Schmitt sent letters to local health agencies this week ordering that they repeal the mask warrants, the isolation and quarantine require “and other public health orders.”
McDonald County, in the far corner of southwestern Missouri, said Thursday it had “ceased all COVID-19 orders,” including isolation and quarantine policies.
COVID-19 health orders:Laclede County halts “all” activity to fight COVID after letter from Missouri AG
“While this is a major concern for our agency, we have no choice but to follow the orders of the Missouri attorney general at this time,” the department wrote. “We are awaiting further direction from the Missouri Department of Health and Seniors Services, but we have no timeline or expectation that this decision will be changed.
“While our agency remains committed to protecting the health of residents of our county, it should be understood that this decision greatly affects how we can proceed and stop the spread of COVID. “
The department has “spoken to other (departments) of health and several lawyers” and is also unable to isolate residents for other infectious diseases, he told people commenting. its publication on Facebook.
Laclede County wrote in a Friday Facebook Post that its staff “will continue to monitor positive cases, deaths and statistical data for our county.”
“While this action will change what our local community has become accustomed to seeing in our publications and the work being done, ‘internally’ our work has changed very little,” the department wrote.
Other Missouri and School District Health Departments Respond to Attorney General’s Letter
Several other county health departments on Thursday released almost identical language in their announcements. Dunklin, Stoddard, Pemiscott and New Madrid the counties, all in southeast Missouri, have said they “cease all work related to COVID-19.”
COVID work stoppages result from decision last month by a Cole County circuit judge, who said local health officials did not have the power to impose COVID-19 public health orders. It made some Missouri regulations null and void, including language on notifying those exposed to the virus and providing information to residents to respond to.
Schmitt, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate who has strongly opposed COVID-19 mandates and health orders, responded to the decision with letters to local departments and school districts. Several districts, including Springfield Public Schools, rejected Schmitt’s order, saying they would not immediately repeal their mask warrants.
Rural Missouri has been hit hard by COVID-19 throughout the pandemic and has seen some of the biggest increases during the Delta variant last summer, which was most visible for the first time in the south -Western Missouri. Positive case rates and statewide hospitalizations are increasing with cold weather and current flu season.