OZARK, Mo.– When Tom Gammon stepped up to the podium during Friday afternoon’s #MaskingForAFriend news conference in Christian County, he instantly separated himself from the rest of those urging the public to mask up.
Tom isn’t a healthcare worker. He isn’t a politician. He’s a Christian County resident; one who, make no mistake, knows what COVID-19 can do.
“My wife is the one who passed away,” Tom spoke with a struggle.
“One month ago today, I woke up [after] just a few hours of restless sleep,” Tom explained from the podium. “[It was] the first morning of knowing that my wife of 33 years was never coming home again. That I would never get to say, ‘Goodnight, baby. I love you.’ She lost her battle with COVID-19 the previous day.”
Tom’s story, having to tell his children and his children’s children that his wife “had to leave to be with Jesus”, is one he and the other speakers at Friday’s news conference say they’re hoping they can see avoided by others in Christian County.
Their primary suggestion is wearing a mask.
While Tom’s wife is the only reported death in Christian County, the Christian County Health Department reports it’s seen 142 total cases of COVID-19. There were 66 active cases being monitored as of Friday. 63 of those are said to have been contracted by community interaction.
The Health Department says its overwhelmed. For that reason, Dr. Karen Peak with the Christian County Health Department says the Health Department is looking to hire at least 20 people to work as contact tracers
For those worried about the economy, Dr. Peak with the Christian County Health Department said masks don’t just prevent the spread of COVID-19, they also prevent the closing of businesses.
Nixa and Ozark are considering masking ordinances. Nixa is expected to further discuss its ordinance on Monday, July 20. Rick Gardner, Mayor of Ozark, says his town will be looking to Nixa’s decision.
City and county leaders are banding together, even going so far as to form a Pandemic Response Task Force. The first mission of that task force is a public education campaign on the importance of wearing masks.
Until that campaign launches, leaders are hoping Tom Gammon’s tale will be enough.
“I wear a mask out of respect for you and your family,” Tom said Friday.
“I wear a mask out of my prayer that your family doesn’t have to endure the heartbreak that mine is experiencing now.”