A presentation from the chairman of the Pettis County COVID-19 Task Force during Monday night's Sedalia City Council meeting led to a lengthy discussion about the ongoing worldwide coronavirus pandemic and how it's affecting the local community.

Pettis County Presiding Commissioner David Dick appeared online before the Council through GoToMeeting, and talked about how the task force, comprised of about a dozen community leaders, are battling COVID-19, meeting weekly since February.

Commissioner Dick said that a priority for the task force is to protect Bothwell Regional Health Center and and the local health care system.

Dick's teleconference chat was followed by a video from Pettis County Health Center Administrator JoAnn Martin, which illustrated how coronavirus cases in the county have surged since the pandemic began affecting residents in March.

Folders representing positive COVID-19 patients were stacked on tables lined up around a room at the center, starting with a few in March and steadily increasing, culminating in hundreds of folders in November.

As of Monday, there were a total of 34 deaths reported due to COVID-19 in Pettis County, according to the health center. A total of 3,562 positive cases have been reported in Pettis County overall. And there are 835 active cases, currently.

Martin's video was followed by an in-person appearance by Dr. Jeffrey Sharp.

“Our medical system is on the verge of being overwhelmed,” Dr. Sharp cautioned.

He added that “the COVID death is a lonely death. If you get COVID, plan on a lonely death.”

His own father-in-law succumbed to the coronavirus on Aug. 31 at the age of 91, Dr. Sharp noted, adding that is is vitally important to slow the rampant spread of the deadly virus.

“I've seen up to 20 COVID patients in the course of an ER shift. I've had to transfer up to six patients a day, because of lack of rooms. I've sent one patient as far as St. Louis to get an ICU bed. He died,” Dr. Sharp said.'

Dr. Sharp, who is a partner in Family Medicine Associates, also serves as president of the Sedalia 200 School District Board of Education.

Dr. Sharp's presentation was followed by one by PCAD Chief Eric Dirck, who noted that currently, one out of four patients transported by PCAD are COVID positive.

Dirck, who has served as director since 2017, said that out of 70 PCAD employees, 10 of them have been adversely affected by COVID, nine of those cases occurred within the past two months. Every facet of PCAD's operations have changed since the pandemic made its presence know in the Pettis County area. Decontamination happens after every COVID call.

Bothwell Regional Health Center CEO Lori Wightman said that “We need our community's help in slowing the spread of this virus.”

She added that "masks aren't perfect, but they do slow the spread of the virus."

Charity White from Smithton also spoke with concern about those with anxiety and depression issues when it comes to wearing masks.

“I want to be sure those people are considered. I also worry about my kids,” she said, with faces being hidden by masks. “I feel that's a safety precaution that I'm not necessarily comfortable with. And other people's faces being hidden. That also concerns me. Those are a few things I thought I'd bring out.”

Heather Slagle of Sedalia offered her opinion on the wearing of masks, alleging that masks increase infection rates.

She referenced a recent school board meeting which mandated the wearing of masks on school property. “Even during that time period, I asked for the scientific studies that supported mask mandates, because I haven't found them. And I presented several studies to Dr. Sharp to the contrary. And we have seen where actually masks increase infection rates. So numbers and truth can be found in the science. And that's all I ask,” she said.

Slagle asked “why don't we do something that works? rather than pretending that (masks) work, because it doesn't.” She added that the solution to the problem lies in early out patient treatment, Hydroxychloroquine and zinc.

“The policy needs to follow the science,” she concluded.

Hydroxychloroquine is used to treat and prevent malaria. It can also treat lupus and arthritis.

According to a June 15 update from the Food and Drug Administration, “based on ongoing analysis and emerging scientific data, the FDA has revoked the emergency use authorization (EUA) to use hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to treat COVID-19 in certain hospitalized patients when a clinical trial is unavailable or participation is not feasible. They made the determination based on recent results from a large, randomized clinical trial in hospitalized patients that found these medicines showed no benefit for decreasing the likelihood of death or speeding recovery.”

The COVID discussion came at the end of Monday night's regular City Council meeting, which ran 90 minutes, followed by a closed door session.