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County OKs more CARES Act funding; Mask opposition continues

The Cape Girardeau County Commission has approved $2.5 million of CARES Act funding, with another $2.1 million of funding requests proposed to the county.

The county has received $9,253,142 of the $2.38 billion of federal funding the State of Missouri received. The federal funds must be used for necessary expenditures that were incurred due to the COVID-19 public health. The expenditures could not have been already budgeted and must be incurred between March 1-Dec. 30, 2020.

New CARES Act funding has been approved since July 6 for Southeast Hospital in the amount of $39,140, the Cape Girardeau Public School District in the amount of $97,220, St. Mary School for the upcoming school year in the amount of $38,000, Saxony Lutheran High School for the upcoming school year in the amount of $5,690, attorneys Ellis, Ellis, Hammons and Johnson in the amount of $2,415, the Cape Girardeau County Public Health Center in the amount of $4,450, the City of Cape Girardeau in the amount of $128,360, St. Paul Lutheran School in the amount of $7,880, Southeast Missouri State University in the amount of $380,290, Nell Holcomb School District in the amount of $196,180 and Oak Ridge School District inthe amount of $169,040.

Some of the previously approved funding has changed, including the Jackson School District (now $77,266), Immaculate Conception for the upcoming school year (now $95,539), Notre Dame High School for the past school year (now $1,798), Notre Dame High School for the upcoming school year (now $100,086), St. Vincent De Paul School (now $55,095), Delta School District (now $101,016) and Lynwood Christian Academy (now 43,538).

Commissioner Paul Koeper said some of the changes were due to the county previously denying requests for expenses between March 1 and March 27. The County has since allowed reimbursement for COVID-related expenses that occurred during those dates.

Additionally, the Stryker LUCAS chest compression units for fire department throughout the county was approved for up to $200,000 of CARES Act funding and actually cost $181,035.

$178,287 has already been paid for the first half of the Cape Girardeau County antibody testing. The Public Health Center is approved to spend up to $525,000 total on the project.

In other news:

Disagreement on the face mask order has continued at the Cape Girardeau County Commission meetings, with citizens speaking against the mask order at most meetings since the order went into effect.

Rita LaVanchy of Jackson, who has spoken to the Commission several times in the past few weeks, said she is a registered nurse who has several issues with the mask mandate and thinks the wearing of mask may have unintended consequences.

“God designed our respiratory system, our breathing in and breathing out, for us to blow off poisons and toxins and viruses,” LaVanchy said. “That was the intended purpose. When you mouth breathe through your mask your mouth gets dry, your nasal passages get dry – that is a compromised respiratory system and in fact can make you sick.”

LaVanchy also cited statements from Dr. Anthony Fauci in mid-May where he stated that masks would not be helpful for the general population in this pandemic. Fauci has since said that new evidence shows that mask will help stop the spread of COVID-19. LaVanchy said the “flip-flopping by government officials” has confused her.

“If impeding respirations could have unintended consequences for the mask-wearer in May, then it is surely the same now,” she said. LaVanchy added that people who want to wear a mask should be allowed to do so, but it should not be required in the county.

Erin Jones of Cape Girardeau County, who has also spoken in front of the commission several times against the mask order, asked that the commission read scientific literature about universal mask use.

“There is no scientific evidence to support the use of universal mask wearing – none,” Jones said. “I’ve investigated the scientific literature. I know how to conduct a systematic literature review – I’ve done it.”

Jones said she is a registered nurse, data scientist and is involved with a COVID-19 research project. She shared scientific literature on mask use from before the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“This issue has become so politicized today that most people are not thinking clearly about it, so I think it behooves us to look back at a time where it was not a polarized issue,” Jones said.

The literature, which focused on influenza because it was written before COVID-19, stated that mask wearing did not result in a significant reduction in influenza transmissions. Due to these studies, Jones asked why the public health center is forcing mask use in the county.

“The governor stated that he believed that people were responsible enough to handle themselves,” Jones said. “Why doesn’t our County health department trust us?”

Mark Gihring, Matt Enos, William Lewis, Bleau Deckerd and Aaron DuBois have also spoken against the order.

Josh Johnson of Cape Girardeau asked the commission for help getting copies of the Cape Girardeau County Public Health Center’s board meeting minutes. The mask order was issued by the public health center’s board, who are independent from the commissioners.

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past five years. He can be reached at

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