Boone County COVID-19 data shows 44.6% countywide test positivity rate, 60.4% rate among 18-22 age group

The increase is mostly due to transmission among young adults at bars and restaurants, said Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services Assistant Director Scott Clardy.

Boone County had a COVID-19 test positivity rate of 44.6% and a 60.4% rate among 18 to 22-year-olds from Aug. 21 to Aug. 27, said Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services Assistant Director Scott Clardy and according to data from the health department’s COVID-19 Information Hub.

Testing sites in Boone County conducted 2,463 tests and received 261 positive results from Aug. 14 to Aug. 20, yielding a 10.6% positivity rate. In the same time period, 18 to 22-year-olds had a 38.7% positivity rate. During the following seven-day period, the county returned 471 positive COVID-19 tests out of 1,057 total tests, producing a 34-point jump in the total positivity rate. That same seven-day period also showed a 21.7-point boost in the positivity rate among 18 to 22-year-olds.

This 44.6% positivity rate, according to the database, is the highest Boone County has charted since the beginning of the pandemic — the second highest was 15.8% between July 3 and July 9.

Clardy said he had predicted Boone County’s positivity rate would increase from the previous week’s because he had seen several consecutive days with “really high numbers of positive tests.”

“I knew it was gonna be higher [than before], but I didn’t know it was gonna be that high,” Clardy said. “I was surprised. I was concerned.”

One reason the positivity rate rose, Clardy said, was because of increased virus transmission in Boone County, especially among young adults. He said much of the uptick stemmed from large gatherings without social distancing or face coverings, especially at bars, restaurants and off-campus housing.

Clardy also said the reopening of MU, Columbia College and Stephens College contributed to the boost in transmission. He added that he believed this isn’t the universities’ fault, though, as they put policies in place on campus to curb the spread and students are primarily spreading COVID-19 off campus.

UM System spokesperson Christian Basi said MU’s Show Me Renewal Plan has worked well so far to accomplish what he said is the university’s goal: “to hold in-person classes and operate research labs.” He said monitoring other factors, such as hospital capacity, medical supply stockpiles and outbreak locations, is just as important to MU as watching the positivity rate and analyzing what the number means.

“I think that you have to be very careful when you're looking at those numbers [positivity rates] because you need to look at the raw numbers first,” Basi said. “For example, when the positivity rate increased, there was a decrease in the number of tests. It’s a perfect example of looking at a single number but not having a knee-jerk reaction.”

The health department calculated the 44.6% rate from a pool of 1,406 fewer tests but 210 more positive results than the week before. Clardy said the week before had so many tests because a record 1,097 people received test results on Aug. 15. He said he couldn’t explain why so many people had decided to get tested around that time.

While the test positivity rate in all of Boone County is 44.6%, the rate among 18 to 22-year-olds is higher, at 60.4%. The 18 to 22 age range, which includes many students at Columbia’s three higher education institutions, makes up the majority of the Aug. 21 to 27 time period’s positive cases: 59.5% of them. From Aug. 14 to 20, that age group had a 38.7% positivity rate and accounted for 34.5% of positive results. 1,043 18 to 22-year-olds in Boone County have contracted COVID-19 as of Sept. 1, which totals 39.9% of the county’s caseload since the beginning of the pandemic.

The 25-point increase from making up 34.5% of the county’s positive cases to 59.5%, Clardy said, shows both that people in the 18 to 22 age range are contracting the virus at a higher rate and are getting tested more.

To combat the increased transmission of COVID-19 in Boone County, Clardy said the health department issued measures that cut back on how late restaurants can serve alcohol and capped group sizes at 20 people. He said the goal is to curtail late night parties with young people “standing shoulder to shoulder” at bars without face coverings.

Clardy said the public health effects of non-socially distanced downtown gatherings will likely linger in Boone County for a while.

“I think we’ll continue to see high numbers of cases,” he said. “We’re seeing the impact of people not social distancing and having these large gatherings, and I think we’ll probably continue to see that probably for the next week or two.”

Edited by Joy Mazur | jmazur@themaneater.com

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