Fricke makes debut as county’s new Health Department administrator

By Buck Collier, Special Correspondent
Posted 10/27/21

HERMANN — A veteran registered nurse and Gasconade County resident is the new administrator of the county’s Health Department.

Kenna Fricke, who comes to the agency after spending the …

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Fricke makes debut as county’s new Health Department administrator

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HERMANN — A veteran registered nurse and Gasconade County resident is the new administrator of the county’s Health Department.

Kenna Fricke, who comes to the agency after spending the last seven years with the Montgomery County Health Department, attended her first Board of Trustees meeting Monday morning alongside retiring incumbent Adminstrator Greg Lara.

Lara is scheduled to depart the agency shortly after the first of the year, remaining on board to help Fricke settle into the top administrative position. Fricke was hired by the board in recent weeks, but her identity was not revealed until late last week. Lara said her identity was not disclosed previously because Fricke at that time was still involved in projects at the Montgomery County health agency. She joined the staff at the Gasconade County Health Department last week.

“I did have a wonderful first week,” Fricke told the trustees, who were meeting via Zoom.

Also making her first board meeting was new Trustee Molly Steinbeck of the Bland area. She holds the seat that was vacated by Glenn Duncan of Owensville and was appointed to the board two weeks ago by the Gasconade County Commission.

“I’m excited to be part of the group,” said Steinbeck,who is also a member of her local school board.

The financial coordinator for Heartland Independent Living Center of Owensville, Steinbeck joins Board Chairman Stan Hall and fellow Trustees Ruth Bock, Mary Leeper and Susan Steinbeck. Hall and Bock are from the Hermann area; Leeper is from the Bay area; Susan Steinbeck is from Owensville.

Fricke and her husband are the parents of school-age children in the Gasconade County R-1 District and has been a registered nurse since 2003. She was formally introduced as Lara’s successor to R-1 officials at last week’s Coffee & Conversation event, a regular event sponsored by the district. Yesterday Fricke was scheduled to meet with the nurses of the R-1 and R-2 districts.

During the regular monthly board session, Lara told the trustees that the agency is on schedule to move its Owensville offices into more-spacious surroundings Nov. 1. The new location is adjacent to the existing offices on First Street. Lara said the new location should prove beneficial for agency employees and the public.

“It’s going to help out with vaccinations, with distancing,” he said.

The move has been in the works for some time. “It’s going to be a big improvement for the staff and clients,” said Hall.

Lara’s coronavirus update to the board showed a total of 2,151 cases, up 13 from the previous report, he said, but still headed in the right direction. “We’re seeing a good trend downward” in cases, he said.

He noted that the rate of fully vaccinated county residents stands at 40.6 percent, which is lower than earlier posted rates. The decrease, he explained, is a result of the state health agency updating their figures and more precisely identifying the home areas of those receiving vaccinations from providers in Gasconade County. Several weeks ago the rate for those fully vaccinated in the county was placed at almost 47 percent.

As for getting the COVID-19 vaccine into the arms of eligible school-age youths, success is fleeting, he noted. That rate is holding steady at 20 percent, he said. “That’s something we would have liked to see go a little bit higher,” he told the board.

Lara said another push will be made to expand vaccinations in the southern portion of the county, possibly using a church location as a site in Owensville for a walk-in clinic for booster shots. “We’ll do some discussing and planning on how we want to do that,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll see a bigger turnout on the southern end of the county.”

“Our clinics here in Hermann have been extremely busy,” he added, noting that last week 70 booster shots were given, compared with 150 to 160 shots given the week before.

“Along with a few first and second doses mixed in,” Lara said.

The administrator said the agency is continuing to work closely with the R-1 and R-2 school districts as they work to manage the effects of the coronavirus. “What are some of the things we can do to help with quarantine rates… anything we can do going forward to assist them, make the lines of communication a little more efficient,” Lara said.

With Lara scheduled to be away from the office at the time of next month’s regular session — the last Monday of the month —  the board agreed to reset the November meeting for Monday, Nov. 15.

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