Joplin's mayor said Monday that the COVID-19 caseload in the city is still consistently elevated, and that hospitalization numbers "give us concern."

"Our case numbers are at an elevated point," Mayor Ryan Stanley said during a media briefing at City Hall. "We are seeing some consistency in that elevation to where it does feel like it is plateauing, but it's also plateauing at a higher level than what we feel is good or comfortable."

He said city officials are closely watching the regional hospitalization numbers, "and those hospitalization numbers are now in the 60s and seems like they are trying to push a little bit higher, and that also gives us concern."

City officials are in close contact with representatives of Freeman and Mercy hospitals, he said, to monitor whether the hospitals are reaching capacity because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ryan Talken, director of the Joplin Health Department, said there are 175 Joplin residents known to be currently infected with the virus. The hospitals have admitted 69 COVID-19 patients from throughout the area, with 24 from Joplin. Those numbers are up from the city's last briefing on Sept. 29, when there were 175 active cases reported and 47 hospital patients.

The rate of positive tests in Joplin and Jasper County is 15.6%, which is higher than the state's rate of 9.4%, and also higher than the rate in Greene County of 10.1%, Talken reported.

"So you can see from those numbers that this little corner over here does have a higher postivity rate than what is happening as the average across the state and slightly lower than what's occurring over in Springfield," he said.

In Greene County, the Springfield City Council last week voted to extend a mask mandate that went into effect July 16 to Jan. 9. Joplin's council, which imposed the mandate July 8 by a vote of 6-3, allowed it to expire Aug. 17 by a vote of 5-4.

Joplin's average for new cases per day now is at 20, the health director said. That is down from a peak reported by the city on Sept. 21 of 29 cases per day, he said.

Free state testing for people who are or are not experiencing systems is planned from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday at Missouri Southern State University in the parking lot south of the  football stadium.

Tests also will be provided by the state from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday at the Rocketdyne Church of Christ in Neosho.

To register for a test, go online to health.mo.gov/communitytest. A test site and appointment times can be selected during the registration process. Those who need assistance registering may contact the Missouri COVID-19 Hotline at 877-435-8411.

Both Talken and the assistant city manager, Dan Pekarek, asked residents to continue taking precautions against the spread of the virus.

Talken said people who contract the virus should isolate themselves for 10 days. Those who are notified they have been exposed should quarantine for 14 days.

"Please, Joplin, mask up," Pekarek said. "Wear that mask when you have to be out around other individuals and you can't social distance, but social distance when you can. Wash those hands on a frequent basis. Continue to do those simple things that will help to blunt the effect of COVID in the community."