ST. LOUIS – St. Louis region health leaders and doctors with the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force are bracing for the worst as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the region continue to steadily climb in a ‘winter surge’ that many now fear may make last winter pale in comparison.   

The latest hospitalization totals for the region are now approaching 600 patients and reaching levels not seen since early September.  

 As the holiday week begins in earnest, medical officials are viewing holiday gatherings and travel as the ‘perfect storm’ and are cautioning the surge of COVID cases and deaths will continue to climb unless preventative measures are taken to stem the tide.  Those measures have been the steady chorus of medical advice during the pandemic: wear masks, socially distance, and get a vaccine.  

“I would encourage family members to get tested in the days leading up to getting together, certainly the day before, if you have symptoms,” said Dr. Cameron Webb, the senior adviser for equity on the White House COVID-19 Response Team. “I know you want to see family, but if you have any cold or flu-like symptoms, don’t put your loved ones at risk.”

The highly-contagious omicron variant of the virus is spurring fears in the medical community, with early research suggesting COVID vaccines may lose their ability to fight it off without a third booster shot.

Nationally, less than 17% of Americans have received a booster shot. The St. Louis region hovers only around 20% of residents who are fully vaccinated and received the booster.  Doctors say the unvaccinated represent the highest at-risk group as delta and omicron continue to create case spikes.  

Cases continue to surge in the region with positivity rates jumping the past few weeks.  In the most recent statistics posted by the State of Missouri Health Department, nearly every county in the St. Louis region is reporting a positivity rate in double-digits. 

They are led by Jefferson County (15.93%), Warren County (15.03%), Lincoln County (13.05%), St. Charles County (12.8%), and St. Louis County (11.53%).  Throughout the pandemic, Positivity Rates in double-digits have prompted health officials to issue mandates to protect the general population from infection.  The State of Missouri has reported 5,017 new COVID cases in the last seven days, an average of 717 new cases per day.  

The St. Louis Task Force released new numbers today and offered little hope of a ‘flattening’ in our region. With eight new deaths reported each day on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, the region has now recorded 144 deaths in Task Force hospitals in December alone.  

Hospitals are now treating 572 total patients, with 536 of those patients confirmed as COVID-19 positive and another 36 patients suspected of having the virus. 490 people have been admitted to St Louis area hospitals over the past seven days, while only 456 patients have been released.   

Sadly, 129 people remain in ICU beds as they battle the virus. Of those receiving critical care, five patients are children and two of them are under the age of 11-years-old.  

Since Thanksgiving, the region has surged from 289 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 to the 536 hospitalized today. That’s a 46% increase in hospital beds in less than a month. 

The summer delta surge in the region subsided and reached its lowest hospitalization totals in early November. 

Since that time, the region has doubled its totals in nearly every measured category including ICU Beds in Use, Ventilators in Use, Total Hospitalizations, and Daily Admission Average. 

After falling back to an average of just 31 patients being admitted daily on Nov. 2, St. Louis Task Force hospitals now report that the daily average of admissions has reached 70 patients.