Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Sewershed Surveillance Project data shows the exponentially weighted moving average (EWMA) for the presence of novel coronavirus in sewage at the Springfield Northwest Wastewater Treatment Plant from the middle of 2020 to March 2022. (Contributed photo)

To read this story, please sign in with your email address and password.

You've read all your free stories this month. Subscribe now and unlock unlimited access to our stories, exclusive subscriber content, additional newsletters, invitations to special events, and more.


While COVID-19 case counts and hospitalizations in Springfield are on a declining trend, the Springfield-Greene County Health Department will use a $1.9 million financial booster shot to continue efforts to slow the spread of the disease.

On March 21, the Springfield City Council voted to allow the health department to accept a pair of grant packages adding up to about $1.97 million for COVID-19 spread prevention. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services passed funding to Springfield from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus in Greene County.

Why care?

Case counts and hospitalizations in Springfield and surrounding cities are trending downward, but the virus is still spreading to the point that the Missouri Department of Health and Senior services was willing to obligate almost $2 million toward reducing any surges that might occur in the spring of 2022.

Data from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services shows that 148,791 Greene County residents have taken two-dose COVID-19 vaccine cycles, which equates to about 50.8 percent of the population being fully vaccinated for COVID.

Jon Mooney, assistant director of the Springfield Greene-County Health Department, explained that one of the grants is to enhance the Springfield-Greene County Health Department’s epidemiological capacity and laboratory capacity.

“Specifically, the $1.4 million in funding will be allocated to the current fiscal year for costs associated with the epidemiological response — namely, case investigations and contact tracing,” Mooney said.

The World Health Organization identified Omicron BA2 as a variant of concern in November 2021. The Centers for Disease Control noted BA2’s presence in 22 U.S. states from Dec. 1-8, 2021.

City Councilman Matt Simpson asked Mooney about BA2 on March 21.

“Have we seen any of the BA2 variant in our community?” Simpson asked.

“We have actually had BA2, the subvariant that is causing disease in other parts of the world — we’ve actually had it here locally for six weeks,” Mooney said.

Rapid antigen tests and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests aren’t generally used to look for a specific variant, but are employed to quickly determine whether or not a person has COVID-19. Variants on the community health scale are detected at sewage treatment plants through the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Sewershed Surveillance Project.

“We are relying on our sewershed system, as many are throughout the state and nation, to really track variants. I think that’s one of the things that we learned early on with Omicron is that (sewer testing) was effective at detecting those variants,” Mooney said.

Omicron BA2 has been identified in samples taken at both of Springfield’s sewage treatment plants.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines COVID Omicron BA2 as a “variant of concern.”

A variant of concern is a viral variant “for which there is evidence of an increase in transmissibility, more severe disease (for example, increased hospitalizations or deaths), significant reduction in neutralization by antibodies generated during previous infection or vaccination, reduced effectiveness of treatments or vaccines or diagnostic detection failures.”

What the health department doesn’t know, Mooney said, is whether or not Springfield and the surrounding cities will experience a surge in cases directly attributed to the BA2 variant of COVID-19. His assessment on March 21 was “so far, so good,” but Mooney was quick to say that COVID-19’s impact on Springfield is not done.

I do not believe that the virus is done with us yet.

Jon mooney

“I do not believe that the virus is done with us yet. With almost complete certainty, we will experience additional cases and surges of the disease and its corollary effects,” Mooney said.

In the last two years, the Springfield-Greene County Health Department performed investigations of more than 70,000 cases of COVID-19. More than 37,000 people in Greene County have been contacted by health department workers over the past two years because they were exposed in close proximity to someone who was infected with COVID-19. The health department also has administered more than 30,000 tests for COVID.

“Testing, case investigation and contact tracing result in people being quickly diagnosed and beginning isolation or quarantine earlier, which helps limit the spread of the virus in our community. These prevention strategies paired with our other mitigation efforts have saved many in our community from illness, hospitalization and death,” Mooney said.

How to take action

Information on COVID-19 in Springfield and Greene County, including information on how to get vaccinated: https://www.springfieldmo.gov/5068/Coronavirus

Rance Burger

Rance Burger is the managing editor for the Daily Citizen. He previously covered local governments from February 2022 to April 2023. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia with 17 years experience in journalism. Reach him at rburger@hauxeda.com or by calling 417-837-3669. Twitter: @RanceBurger More by Rance Burger