Teachers missing their students drove through neighborhoods to exchange waves.

Madge T. James Kindergarten students wait to go home until after Labor Day because of an infection outbreak among staff.

What virus? Then the prolonged spike

The Rev. Clint Lambeth preaches on Easter Sunday to the Central United Methodist Church following on Facebook while the pews are empty.

A social-distanced delayed Easter service was held by the Praying Hands on May 9.

2020 was a year like any other year – until spring, when the coronavirus pandemic became a nationwide threat.

At first, the pandemic was just an inconvenience. There was the toilet paper shortage. Pallets of toilet arriving to reinforce the supply at Webb City Walmart would be gone in an hour. Rolls were vanishing from public restrooms, including those in Webb City’s parks. Disinfecting wipes were also hard to find. As was flour because everyone had time to bake.

Statewide limits on gatherings caused hundreds of cancelations. Movie theaters closed, restaurants had to rely on take-outs and home delivery to stay in business.

There’d never been a longer spring break. For the Webb City R-7 School District, students were supposed to come back March 16, but the resumption of classes was at first put back until April 6. Students wound up never coming back.

Basketball was the last sport of the school year. The baseball team didn’t get to play a game on its new turf.

Easter services on April 12 were sparsely attended, if at all. An outdoor Easter service, with social distancing, was later held at the base of the Praying Hands Statue.

Teacher Haven Petit hands out Grab N Go meals at Harry S Truman Elementary
while a line of cars winds around the parking lot.

Meals are delivered to one of many drop-off locations.

Principal Jodi Bennett collects returned books from cars
waiting in line for the meals.

The Webb City Farmers Market adapted by spreading booths farther apart and letting shoppers place their order on line for pick-up.

Businesses reopened in May, encouraged by the city and chamber of commerce promoting 330 Essential Businesses. 

The Webb City High School Class of 2020 received sympathy for the way what should have been their triumphant year came to an end. Rather than one commencement, though, they got two. 

The first “commencement” was held on schedule, on May 15, as seniors paraded in cars past a crowd of fans.

The real one was delayed until June 19. To abide by county health department guidelines, the 308 graduates were seated 6 feet apart. Rather than face the home-side grandstand in Cardinal Stadium, they faced the video board. Spacing the audience was also attempted using the visitor seating, too, and placing chairs on the track. The arrangement of graduates on a greater portion of the field worked so well, it may be repeated even if social distancing isn’t as important in 2021.

At the end of May, Jasper County and Joplin combined had only recorded 72 cases. Then came the spike.

By the end of June the number of cases had increased 25 times to 1,855. And the first deaths were recorded. Nursing homes were hit especially hard.

“No” would have been the answer to the common question of “Do you know someone who has been infected?” … until summer.

The lack-of-testing problem was answered when the Missouri National Guard tested 1,200 people over a two-day period (June 29-30) at Carthage.

Voters wait in line to vote during the Nov. 3 election.

A National Guardsman directs a line of cars as far as the eye can see toward the free, drive-thru coronavirus testing site in Carthage.

Mayor Lynn Ragsdale encourages everyone to wear a mask.

Firefighter Rocky Berliew hands out free masks.

Joplin passed a mandatory mask ordinance that lapsed, then despite controversy instituted another mandatory mask order that’s still in effect. Area cities, including Webb City did not follow Joplin’s lead.

Webb City Mayor Lynn Ragsdale revealed that he missed the City Council’s Sept. 28 meeting because he had been severely ill with a COVID-19 infection. He strongly encouraged fellow residents to wear masks.


Neysa Castillo is among those infected who took a long time to recover.

Schools reopened in August with the Cardinal Comeback Plan. Educators were determined to be prepared in case all students had to be educated at home again.

Students were unusually ready to return to in-person classes. Only 536 (12%) chose to enroll in virtual classes. One teacher at each grade level was responsible for virtual learning rather than a class of in-person students.

Less than a week after the start, Madge T. James Kindergarten Center was closed from Aug. 25 until after Labor Day because 10 of 25 staff members were sick.

Other than that, the number of students and staff under quarantine has not required any other schools to close.

Superintendent Tony Rossetti says the students are good about wearing their masks because they want to stay in school.

At the end of 2020, the number of COVID-19 related deaths in Jasper County and Joplin totaled 195 (102 Jasper County, 93 Joplin).

On the night commencement had  been scheduled, seniors instead paraded by well-wishers.

Graduates, families and friends sat farther apart than usual when commencement was held on June 19.

Webb City football players prepared for the virus opponent.

Singing the alma mater after a win.

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