Special Health Issue: COVID-19

County-level data and information about the Assessed Health Issue and Social Determinants of Health indicators can be found in the report appendices.

Key Findings

December 2019

Reports of pneumonia of unknown etiology surface in Wuhan, China

January 17, 2020

First COVID-19 case is confirmed in the U.S.

March 7, 2020

First COVID-19 case confirmed in Missouri

March 13, 2020

State of emergency declared for Missouri

December 2020

First COVID-19 vaccine becomes available

April 2021

COVID-19 vaccine becomes widely available in Missouri

May 12, 2021

COVID-19 vaccine expanded to include ages 12+

May 2021

Delta variant first identified in Missouri

August 2021

COVID-19 vaccine given FDA approval and COVID-19 vaccine booster shots recommended for immunocompromised

Beginning in late 2019, rumblings of a new respiratory disease with severe symptoms began spreading outward from Asia. By mid-January 2020 this disease, known as SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19, had spread to the United States9. A Missouri resident, after traveling back from Europe, tested positive in March, though subsequent data updates indicate possible earlier cases10. The first recorded positive case in Greene County, Missouri (part of the Springfield Community) was verified on March 12, 202011

Missouri Governor Mike Parson declared a state of emergency due to COVID-19 on March 13, 202012. In the months that followed many municipalities, private organizations, and community boards in the OHC Region enacted various disease mitigation programs including social distancing, mask requirements, and school/workplace closures. 

By December 2020, several vaccine candidates became available for public use, for those age 16 and over, through an Emergency Use Authorization by the US Food and Drug Administration13. In Missouri, vaccine access prioritized older and more at-risk residents but by April 2021 the vaccine was available, though not always accessible, to the general adult population14. In May 2021, the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) was expanded to include everyone over the age of 1213. To increase vaccination rates and offer the best protection from severe health consequences of COVID-19, leaders in health, public health, and other community organizations rallied together to make sure residents had the appropriate information and access to the vaccine. By August 2021, one vaccine had been given formal FDA approval for those 16 and older, resulting in mandated vaccination by several public and private employer13

COVID-19 continues to have a significant impact to the residents, economy, and social structures in the OHC Region. Beginning in June 2021, the Region became Missouri’s and the US’s epicenter for a new virus variant, Delta, which is characterized by increased transmissibility, especially among unvaccinated populations. Health infrastructure continued to be stretched and many of those living in the area died or lost loved ones due to the virus. In August 2021, recommendations for vaccine booster shots among immunocompromised individuals were issued by leading health organizations15

COVID-19 Case Rates

Though the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing, it is vital to examine how this unprecedented emergency, and its long-term effects, has impacted the community. The OHC Region, specifically, is performing poorly when comparing certain statistics to state and national rates. For example, the Region’s overall case rate is more than 10% higher than the state rate; regional communities have rates that range from 12,705.1 (Lebanon Community) to 17,041.8 (Joplin Community) per 100,000 population. (For context, the population of the city of Springfield, Missouri is around 167,000.) Multiply that by the number of family members, friends, and other close contacts put at risk of infection and the overall power and reach of this disease becomes staggering.

COVID-19 Mortality

Families, friends, and communities have been deeply impacted by loss of life due to COVID-19. While accounting for differences in total population, the Ozarks Health Commission Region has experienced more loss due to COVID-19 than average for Missouri (+22%) and for the nation (+5%). While many who contract COVID-19 go on to recover, sometimes with short- and long-term disability, the virus has proven fatal for hundreds of residents and neighbors. Many worked to create, communicate, and maintain mitigation strategies to decrease the spread and severity of disease, but these measures were not always accepted by community members. Acceptance of mitigation strategies, such as masking and vaccination, remains incomplete while misinformation related to COVID-19 abounds. As a result, the burden of disease persisted.

COVID-19 Fully Vaccinated Adults

There have been successes, too. Importantly, the medical community and the public-at-large now have a safe, effective, and accessible tool to fight COVID-19—a vaccine. However, the OHC Region has fallen behind in utilizing this tool. In each community, the COVID-19 vaccination rate for adults trails the state and national average. In the Mountain View Community, for example, only one in three residents have taken advantage of this potentially life-saving opportunity. The OHC Region’s rate is higher (47.4%) but it is being largely driven by urban areas like Springfield and Joplin. Overall, the OHC Region has a vaccination rate that continues to lag behind the national average by about 25%. 


9Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, August 4). CDC Museum COVID-19 Timeline. Retrieved from CDC Museum: https://www.cdc.gov/museum/timeline/covid19.html 
10Smith, A. (2020, May 27). COVID-19 Was In Missouri A Month Before The First Case Was Reported, According To Updated Data. Retrieved from St. Louis Public Radio: https://news.stlpublicradio.org/2020-05-27/covid-19-was-in- missouri-a-month-before-the-first-case-was-reported-according-to-updated-data 
11Springfield-Greene County Health Department. (2021, August 30). COVID-19 Dashboard: Springfield-Greene County. Retrieved from Springfield-Greene County Health: https://www.springfieldmo.gov/5068/Coronavirus 
12Missouri Governor Michael L. Parson. (2020, March 13). Executive Order 20-02. Retrieved from Missouri Secre tary of State: https://www.sos.mo.gov/library/reference/orders/2020/eo2 
13U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2021, August 23). COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution: The Process. Retrieved from HHS.gov Coronavirus: https://www.hhs.gov/coronavirus/covid-19-vaccines/distribution/index.html 
14Missouri Governor Michael L. Parson. (2021, March 18). GOVERNOR PARSON ANNOUNCES TIMELINE FORACTIVATION OF PHASE 2 AND 3 OF MISSOURI’S COVID-19 VACCINATION PLAN. Retrieved from Missouri Governor: https://governor.mo.gov/press-releases/archive/governor-parson-announces-timeline-activation-phase-2-and-3-missouris-covid 
15Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, August 27). COVID-19 Vaccines for Moderately to Severely Immunocompromised People. Retrieved from COVID-19: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/ recommendations/immuno.html