‘It’s past time to take dramatic action to try and get cases down,’ Garza says of new COVID records


ST. LOUIS – The head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force said it’s hard to say if more restrictions could be coming to St. Louis County. Dr. Alex Garza has been advocating for tighter restrictions for weeks, but it’s up to elected officials to make the final call.

“It’s a political calculus and it’s an economic calculus, as well as the public health calculus,” Garza said. “You know, we speak with the elected officials. And we let them know what the status of the hospitals are and how many patients we’re seeing. We make recommendations on what we think we could do to bring down those numbers. But then it’s, you know, it’s up to it’s up to the elected officials.”

The task force said the region hit two new records in data released Sunday, which is on a two-day lag. The 7-day moving average of hospitalizations went from 884 to 897. Another record in the region was the inpatient COVID positive hospitalizations; that number climbed from 905 to 920.

New hospital admissions jumped from 88 to 116. Dr. Garza said it’s too early for these numbers to be reflective of Thanksgiving gatherings.

Meanwhile, hospitals are running out of room and healthcare workers are exhausted. Staffed hospital bed capacity in metro hospitals are at 77 percent full and ICU beds are 89 percent full.

Garza said he’s concerned that Thanksgiving is going to add more cases and more admissions to an already full hospital.

“That’s why I’m really concerned that we’re, we’re just going to keep setting records and records,” he said.

The doctor said it is hard to say that the mitigation efforts such as wearing a mask, washing your hands and social distancing are enough to get the virus under control because its already everywhere in the community.

“The only way that you can really bring cases down significantly in a short amount of time, is to start doing things like safer at home policies, which, you know, we haven’t been shy in advocating for with the governor,” he said.

He said hospitals are competing for staff.

“It’s been difficult to recruit nurses to this area to begin with, even without COVID it’s been challenging. COVID has just made it that much more difficult. So much like PPE was in the beginning of the pandemic, that’s where we are with staffing right now,” Garza said. “The prices for contract nurses have gone through the roof.”

He said staff is exhausted.

“I’m afraid we’re going to see a whole generation of nurses with PTSD after this is all said and done,” Garza said. “It’s that bad.”

Meanwhile, the number of patients discharged from the hospital have also increased with 103 reported Sunday. But Garza said the number is bigger just because there have been more admissions.

“I have heard, though, that a lot of these patients are then getting readmitted to the hospital for complications from COVID,” he said. “Whether that’s breathing problems, or even neurologic problems, or heart problems.”

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