MCDONALD COUNTY, MO (KCTV) - There are some interesting twists in this corona virus pandemic. For instance, the smallest areas can be among the biggest hotspots.
McDonald County, Missouri, is one such area. It sits right on the edge of Oklahoma and Arkansas, and Kansas isn’t too far away.
Just a few weeks ago, McDonald County was the number one hotspot in the country. This week, it’s number three.
Here’s a look at the numbers:
- 23,000 people call McDonald County home
- The county now has 808 positive cases
- One in 28 people in the county have tested positive.
As a point of reference, in Kansas City, Missouri, that rate is one in 177.
McDonald County wasn’t always a hotspot. For months at the beginning of the pandemic, coronavirus case numbers were low. It’s a picturesque, patriotic community where much of life revolves around the Elk River and summer tourism.
But it is also home to the Tyson Food plant. The local health department believes many of the residents testing positive work at the plant.
Testing at the plant showed about half of the county’s cases could be traced to the plant. But the other half are likely due to community spread.
When KCTV5 News visited the county, most locals said they were unimpressed with the “hotspot” notoriety and unconcerned about the virus. They are just moving along with life.
“It’s mostly political, honestly,” Pineville resident Andrew Moritz said. “A lot of people around here think (wearing a mask) is really stupid around here—an infringement on rights.”
And when you observe those in the town, it’s clear most are not in favor of mask wearing. In the nearly two dozen people KCTV5 News saw walking into the country grocery store, no one was wearing a mask. One person had one in their hand.
“I don’t know what to think,” Noel resident Zoe Parrish said. “If I’m one of those people to get it. I get it. It doesn’t bother me that much.”
The county health department is recommending mask use, but not requiring it. It tries to educate residents and posted a risk assessment on its Facebook page.
The Tyson plant employs many Somalian refugees who won’t answer their phones, so volunteer interpreters visit them to explain how to stop the spread of the virus.
“We encourage them to have the mask all the time,” McDonald County Health Department volunteer Mohamud Abdullah told KCTV5 News. “Be careful with this disease. Coronavirus is very dangerous disease.”