Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Joplin and Jasper County are rising slightly faster this week as Joplin enters a more lenient phase of its recovery plan.

A 15th case in Joplin was announced Wednesday by the Joplin Health Department after two cases of positive results were announced Tuesday.

In addition, the Jasper County Health Department director, Tony Moehr, said his department is processing three new cases after being notified late Wednesday afternoon of the positive test results. He said no details could be released late Wednesday because his staff was just starting to investigate those cases, but he expected to have more details available today. That would bring the county to 27 confirmed cases.

"That's to be expected," Pekarek said of the rise Wednesday in a weekly City Hall briefing. "When we do more testing, we're going to find more cases."

Of the 14 cases that the city had as of Tuesday, 13 of those are considered recovered, with the victims no longer in isolation.

"The bigger change right now is we've got 46 individuals under quarantine. That's up substantially since the last time we discussed case numbers (last week)," Pekarek said. "That's an indication of how those numbers can change very quickly."

That number is the result of one of two cases that had a large number of contacts that had to be quarantined, he said.

"Sometimes it's just bad luck that you have an individual who has a high number of contacts," he said. "It can be work-related, social events or household contacts" that drive up the number.

The Jasper County Health Department on Tuesday announced that there could have been community exposure in Carthage as the result of a person's attendance May 24 at Alfa y Omega Covenant Church, 2485 W. Old 66 Blvd. in Carthage. According to the department, the patient began developing symptoms May 17 and was quarantined May 29 after being named as a contact of another individual who tested positive for the virus.

Moehr said he did not yet have updated numbers for the contacts in the department's three new cases, but as of Friday, the department had 24 confirmed cases with five still in isolation. Over the duration of the virus outbreak here, the department had recorded 100 contacts in those cases that had to be placed under quarantine. There were 54 who had been released and 46 still in quarantine on Friday. He said those numbers will change when the three new cases are investigated.

The Newton County Health Department has had 21 cases, with five people who have tested positive in isolation and 33 contacts related to those five under quarantine. So far the total of quarantined contacts for all 21 cases has been 104, and 71 have been released, according to a department spokesman.

The Joplin City Council voted Monday to move from step one of the city's COVID-19 recovery plan to the second step.

Pekarek said the biggest change in moving to the second step is increasing capacity from 25% to 50% for personal services such as salons and gyms, churches and theaters.

However, businesses must stay at 25% for another two weeks because of restrictions in the state recovery plan.

Restrictions on the number of people sitting together in Joplin churches, restaurants and bars increased from six to 10.

Social distancing is still in place, and residents are encouraged to continue to wear masks.

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