HILLSBORO, Mo. – The director of the Jefferson County Health Department became emotional as she called for a special board meeting to discuss more COVID-19 mitigation efforts.
The county is back in the “red zone” for cases as the debate over a mask mandate continues.
Under the county’s four-color alert system, the red level is the highest level indicating widespread, uncontrolled community transmission. It moved into the red level this week and, according to the department’s Facebook page, the mitigation action for the red zone is to implement stay-at-home orders again.
The health department’s board of trustees held its regular monthly meeting Thursday afternoon. The event was streamed live on Facebook. Health Director Kelley Vollmar asked the board to schedule a special meeting to discuss more COVID restrictions.
“We have the approval to go forward with a special meeting, which will allow us to just specifically talk about those topics and what kinds of mitigation measures we can move forward to address COVID in our community so I take that as a step forward,” Kelley Vollmar, Jefferson County Health Department director said.
A few anti-mask protesters showed up outside the health department, along with a few supporters of a mask mandate who also demonstrated. The issue has become very political and divisive in the county. Vollmar became emotional when she said the board has put her agency in an unfathomable position, with constant verbal attacks on her and her employees.
“I think it is important that the public understands that our agency is doing everything within the four walls of this office to be able to help the people of this community,” Vollmar said. “They are getting yelled at, screamed at, berated on a daily basis to the point where it is reprehensible. I am ashamed at some of the people in my community for the way they are treating people who are honest-to-God trying to help them.”
Vollmar said action needs to be taken soon to limit the spread of COVID-19. She said the number of hospitalizations of Jefferson County residents suffering from the virus has gone up 90 percent in the last 30 days.
Officials believe large public gatherings where mask-wearing and social distancing was not practiced has fueled the recent spike in coronavirus cases in Jefferson County.
“We haven’t set a date but in order to be as transparent as we can be,” Jefferson County Board of Trustees Chairperson Dennis Diehl said. “We are going to look for a larger venue so that anyone who may attend can we’re going to try to get an agenda out at least a week ahead.”
With those guidelines in place, Vollmar said they want to hold the meeting as soon as possible.