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ST. LOUIS – COVID case numbers keep rising in the St. Louis area, and now there’s increasing concern about the new omicron variant. St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page addressed it this morning at a COVID briefing.

Page said the county will continue its mask mandate as long as it is recommended by health officials. He said he believes it is currently the best path forward to keeping the community safe.

“The clash between politics and public health and misinformation jeopardizes the safety of our most vulnerable,” said Page. “I ask you to tune out the noise encourage your elected leaders to make the choices that will help us end this pandemic and continue your responsible actions.”

Page said omicron will no doubt result in an uptick in COVID cases for the region. That is raising concerns since COVID numbers were already increasing in the area before the first Missouri omicron case was announced on Friday in St. Louis City.

St. Louis County said it is working with the state and St. Louis City to closely monitor cases. Page said he knows there is a lot of anxiety around the omicron variant. He said there are still many unanswered questions, such as:

  • Is it more contagious than the delta variant?
  • Does it cause a more severe illness?
  • Will the current vaccine be effective against the new variant?

Dr. Bijal Parikh, the associate medical director of the Molecular Infectious Disease Lab at Washington University, said it may be a few more weeks before there is definitive data about the new variant.

“What we’re seeing now may be a milder disease, but is that true as all the data is collected? I still think that remains to be seen,” said Parikh. “Even when delta first appeared it was thought that delta would be a more severe disease in children but as the data was collected over time it was found that was not to be the case.”

Officials say St. Louis County is currently averaging 255 new COVID cases every day. He said that’s an increase of 9.5 % over the previous week. The COVID positivity rate in St. Louis County is currently 8.4%. Just over 56% of St. Louis County residents are fully vaccinated while nearly 65% have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine.

The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force’s newest data is from Friday. They reported there were 64 new hospital admissions. That was an increase of 10 from Thursday and it was the newest admissions since September 22. The task force reported 421 confirmed COVID-positive patients were hospitalized. That’s an increase of 35 from Thursday. It is the first time the area has had more than 400 COVID-positive patients in hospitals since September 23. There were 7 more COVID deaths reported on Friday.

One number did decrease. The number of COVID patients in ICUs decreased by 8 to 83, and 62 more patients were discharged from hospitals.