BRANSON — A jump in coronavirus cases after many businesses in the Branson area reopened to tourists has health officials concerned.
The Taney County Health Department urged people to wear masks in public after reporting 11 new cases of COVID-19 Saturday and , according to the Kansas City Star. The county's virus cases jumped to 56 from 15 over the past two weeks, and that total doesn't include visitors to the area who test positive but are counted in their home counties.
The case numbers remain small compared to urban areas of the state, but Branson is a community of less than 12,000 residents in southwest Missouri.
Health officials have worried that once the state opened back up they would see more cases.
Many of Branson's businesses have reopened for tourism, including miniature golf courses, shops and restaurants. Many entertainers have returned to their stages around Branson as well.
On Friday evening, dozens of people gathered for an outdoor concert at the Branson Landing. That outdoor mall along Lake Taneycomo will also host an Independence Day celebration this week complete with a beer garden, musical acts and fireworks.
Last week, the Taney County Health Department's board passed a resolution asking residents and visitors to wear face masks or coverings in public places. But it is not a requirement.
Though not record-breaking like last weekend, Missouri continued to add steady numbers of cases to its total, notching 314 new cases Sunday, with at least one new case in 49 counties, according to the state health department. In total, Missouri has 20,575 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 997 confirmed deaths.
The largest numbers remain in the state’s urban areas. Six-thousand seventy-nine cases were reported in St. Louis County, and the city had 2,331 total cases. On the other side of the state in Kansas City, 2,292 cases were reported, while Jackson County reported 1,143 total cases.
In Boone County, 353 total cases have been reported, up 11 from numbers reported Saturday. Of those cases, 101 are active, and 260 residents are in quarantine due to exposure to the contagion. Mayor Brian Treece on Friday called for an ordinance requiring masks in public spaces.
On Friday, Tyson Foods announced that 371 employees at its chicken processing plant in the far southwestern corner of Missouri tested positive for COVID-19.
The company said in a news release Friday that it tested 1,142 employees at the plant in Noel from June 17 to June 19, and 291 tested positive for COVID-19. Of those 291, Tyson said 249, or 85%, were asymptomatic. Tyson said an additional 80 Noel employees tested positive for COVID-19 in separate tests that were performed by their health care providers or the state's Department of Health and Senior Services.
The announcement confirms suspicions that the large spike in McDonald County’s reported COVID-19 numbers starting this past weekend was the result of large-scale testing at the plant, the Springfield News-Leader reports.
McDonald County had 518 total coronavirus cases according to Sunday’s numbers.
Meat processing plants across the U.S. have been stung by outbreaks, including plants in other parts of Missouri.