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Missouri health department cuts overnight hours for COVID-19 hotline

Austin Huguelet Springfield News-Leader
Missouri Health and Senior Services Director Randall Williams speaks at a May meeting of the  CARES Act Funding working group. The department announced Wednesday that it is cutting hours for the state COVID-19 hotline.

Missouri's 24/7 hotline for COVID-19 information is cutting its overnight hours.

The hotline starts a 7 a.m.-9 p.m. schedule Thursday, though it will continue to accept calls seven days a week.

A news release from the state health department explained the change as a reaction to low demand in the hours that are being eliminated.

The department said 93 percent of calls are already coming from 7 a.m.-9 p.m.

It also said the hotline is getting fewer calls than it has in the past.

Calls down

Calls peaked in late March at 15,000 in a week; now the average is around 3,000 per week.

“The schedule is being adjusted to allow the state to use resources most efficiently,” the release said.

The change also comes at a time when the state is recording significantly more cases each week than it did in March, but state health director Dr. Randall Williams said more is known about the virus now, too.

“In March, there was more uncertainty about COVID-19 and its impacts than there is today,” said Williams. “We learn more each week and have been intentional about getting information out to the public through our website, social media and the traditional news media.”

How the coronavirus has spread

To wit: COVID-19 is a virus mostly transmitted in aerosol droplets exhaled by infected people that can linger in the air for hours.

Most people infected will experience mild or moderate respiratory illness and recover without serious medical intervention, though older people and those with underlying health issues like obesity and chronic disease are considered at-risk for getting very sick.

Missouri had recorded more than 125,000 cases as of Wednesday afternoon; more than 2,100 of those had died.

There is currently no approved vaccine for the disease, and though experimental treatments have shown promise in some cases, the best way to combat the virus remains in preventing its spread.

The best way to do that, experts say, is for everyone to maintain 6 feet of distance in public, wear masks or face coverings, and regularly wash hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds at a time.

Missouri's hotline can be reached at 877-435-8411; translation services are available. People can also ask questions of the department’s COVID-19 Chatbot at info.mo.gov/covid/index.php at any time.

ahuguelet@news-leader.com

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