Local COVID task force winds down but warns of possible spike in fall

Coronavirus

ST. LOUIS – The COVID pandemic is not over but the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force says there is no need for weekly briefings now that the situation has improved dramatically over the last year.

Dr. Alex Garza, the task force’s incident commander, said when the group began it set markers to determine when it had reached an end state.

Those markers included: reaching overall health and well-being with a substantial decrease in new transmissions, the elimination of health orders, and the reactivation of the local economy.

At the height of the pandemic, Dr. Garza said daily hospital admissions reached 140. Today data shows there were 18 patients admitted to area hospitals for COVID.

Dr. Garza was joined with other task force members which included other medical professionals and local leaders. Several of the doctors stressed the importance of vaccinations and concerns about the presence of variants in the area.

“We could see another very large spike in the fall,” said Dr. Clay Dunagan, Senior VP/Chief Clinical Officer at BJC Health System

He explained that with the now relaxed health restrictions, that if adequate vaccination doesn’t continue, variants will continue to make their way into the region and could lead to a rise in cases.

Dr. Aamina Akhtar, an infectious disease specialist at Mercy South, reminded people about the progress we’ve made in a year. She asked them to recall something they did this past weekend that they couldn’t do a year ago. She said she was grateful to watch her children play sports, something she wasn’t allowed to do last season.

St. Louis City Mayor Tishaura Jones thanked residents for helping to keep each other safe during the pandemic. She also mentioned mobile vaccination clinics started today, bringing the vaccine to homebound people.

Mayor Jones also said she is working to make sure the city has an equitable recovery that reverses decades of disinvestment.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, who is also a doctor, had a unique perspective to the pandemic.

“Seeing first hand the impact of the pandemic made it clear to me that the restrictions that we put in place to stop the spread were good decisions,” reflected Page.

He also encouraged people to go out and eat at local restaurants and pump money back into the economy.

The St. Louis region saw more than 2,100 deaths due to COVID. The task force also said about 22,000 people were admitted to area hospitals for COVID.

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