Christmas 2020 in a pandemic

By Dave Marner, Managing Editor
Posted 12/23/20

Since March 13, 2020, when a state of emergency was declared, we’ve had most large-scale social events postponed or outright canceled in Owensville and many of the surrounding …

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Christmas 2020 in a pandemic

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Since March 13, 2020, when a state of emergency was declared, we’ve had most large-scale social events postponed or outright canceled in Owensville and many of the surrounding communities.

School Christmas concerts. The downtown tree lighting ceremony. The Gasconade County Fair. Churches held drive-in suppers — many were highly successful, we’ve been told — if they held them at all. Some had drive-in Easter services. Some went to services via social media or Zoom platforms.

Schools were closed up this past spring.

Students became virtual learners. Some area schools this fall went to hybrid methods of attending classes in person a couple days a week and some days in the classroom.

Students and teachers were sent home into quarantine this fall if they tested positive or had been exposed as a close contact.

Our high school girls basketball team is sidelined until after the first of the year with a virus case and related exposures.

Katelyn Landolt, the Owensville High School student representative to the R-2 Board of Education, shared her fellow students’ appreciation for Board of Education directors’ action recently on easing quarantine guidelines in exchange for wearing face masks.

“Everyone is settling into the mask mandate and are grateful not to have to quarantine,” Lanholt told R-2 directors on Monday.

Imagine that — students want to be in school with their classmates and friends.

Superintendent Dr. Chuck Garner gave an update on what that has meant for student attendance.

“Since the change in the mask protocol and quarantined guidelines 18 days ago, we have had 98 individuals who have not been asked to quarantine that would have had to quarantine under the prior guidelines,” said Garner. “That’s 980 days — 10 days a piece for 98 people.”

The pandemic has made dramatic impacts on virtually every aspect of the residents and businesses in the surrounding communities. Gov. Mike Parson, re-elected by a strong majority in November, has extended the State of Emergency in Missouri through at least next March.

Despite the recent outbreak across the state of new virus cases, he has publicly said he does not plan to shut down the state again like this past spring.

Volunteers with the Operation Christmas project of the Helping Hands Outreach Center recently lost a longtime supporter to the virus. Ferdinand Zykan was remembered fondly during last week’s distribution of food boxes and gifts for his volunteer service to HHOC and spearheading a rummage sale which helped support programs of the food pantry.

Ferd was a good volunteer whose spirit will be missed around the HHOC facility.

There is some good news this week out of the Hermann Area District Hospital COVID-testing facility.

“The data show a clear downward trend in both positivity rate and number of new cases for Gasconade County over the last three weeks,” according to a report this week from Dr. Michael Rothermich with HADH. “This is great news and all of us involved in the care of those with COVID want to thank everyone in the community for their recent efforts to decrease the spread.”

Staff at the hospital’s Southwest Medical Associates office across from the hospital had a line of cars waiting for COVID testing this past Wednesday. Testing Monday through Friday is by appointment and referral from your physician. Hospital maintenance staff created a small enclosure for testing staff to work from to keep them out of the elements. A small portable heater helps keep them warm between visits out to a patient’s vehicle.

“Please be safe this holiday season,” added Rothermich in what was his briefest report in the past three weeks.

Thirty-four Gasconade County residents have died from the virus and related complications as of Tuesday.

There was also good news out of the community’s largest employers — book printer LSC Communications.

Top management had visitors from their new owners — Altas Holdings. A partner and top administrators for the Connecticut-based investment group visited Owensville and encouraged management here to get active in their communities again. Be involved and support local projects.

This investment group likes what they see in the LSC plant in Owensville and supports their local community involvement. The local managers were a happy lot this past Tuesday. A $2 million expansion project is under way at the highly successful and profitable book-printing plant.

Benjamin Grosse, the current coroner for Gasconade County is closing out a 16-year career as an elected official. His father, the late Landon “Bud” Grosse, had the elected job for the 24 previous years.

“We have been hammered by this,” said Grosse about the COVID-19 pandemic. “It seems like it’s crazy with the COVID stuff.”

He will close out his duties as coroner by Dec. 31 after handling close to 2,310 cases. His father handled an average of 30 to 40 a year. Changes over the years to coroner duties including also handling nursing home and hospice deaths. This year he’s handled around 180 cases in all including those cases involving COVID.

“I’m just hoping everyone can have access to the vaccine,” said Grosse this past week.

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