ST. LOUIS – The head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force made grim announcements during Monday’s news briefing.
“I’m sorry to say that things have only gotten predictably worse since our Friday briefing,” said Dr. Alex Garza, incident commander of the task force.
Garza said the trends in the metro area continue in the wrong directions.
“COVID-19 is spreading much too quickly and sending far too many people to our hospitals in intensive care units,” he said. “We are now at a tipping point. The actions we take the next weeks and months will look like.”
Dr. Garza gave an update on the latest COVID-19 numbers in the four major hospital systems in the metro area.
There are 809 people in hospitals, which is the highest number the task force has seen up to date. Those in intensive care units jumped from 140 Friday to 162 on Monday.
“This is 9.7 per 1,000 people in the population. If you extrapolate that to 100, that gives you one of every 100 people within our community right now is most likely COVID positive. That’s a very frightening number,” Garza said.
Meanwhile, the rolling seven-day average for hospital admissions is at 120 patients.
“Every day when we do our admissions counts, so many people waiting for test results,” Garza said. “This means that our case numbers are even worse than once thought.”
Just Nov. 9, there were around 600 patients in hospitals.
“It’s easy to say this has been the most exhausting week yet for our doctors, nurses, and technicians and all of the support people who are caring for COVID-19 patients,” Garza said.
Garza talked about the “cost of delay” and “lack of control” contributing to the case counts for the metro area.
“If we start significant action to bring down our reproductive number to 1.0 by this Friday, then we will peak somewhere around Christmas time,” he said. “If we wait until the week of November 27 to bring down transmission numbers to 1.0, the peak will go significantly higher and will be pushed out even further.”
Garza said the hospitals have broken the threshold for the percentage of patients who are in our ICUs.
“We are probably undertesting the number of people who are positive in our community,” he said.
Garza made a call to government officials on what the task force feels would alleviate the hospital crowding situation.
“Every day that we wait is a missed opportunity to save lives and return to a more normal situation,” he said. “First, we ask for a statewide mask mandate across Missouri.”
The decision not to implement a statewide mandate has caused controversy as local leaders and health officials in the metro area deal with rural patients in major hospitals.
Garza also asked for a state plan on more staff and space to care for patients who they know are coming to hospitals in the near future.
The task force lastly asked for a statewide “safer at home” policy to slow the spread of the virus. It would encourage Missouri residents to stay home except for necessary outings.