St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force hosts first media briefing


ST. LOUIS – The newly launched St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force had the first of many daily media briefings.

It’s an opportunity to get updates and answers on the area’s healthcare status while fighting COVID-19.

The task force includes health professionals from major healthcare systems. They are now all working as a team to deliver the latest numbers and our progress in hospitals during this crisis.

“We have a really complex problem that could be boiled down into a very simple strategy,” said Dr. Alex Garza, the Incident Commander of the task force.  

He spoke on the status of patients hospitalized in the task force facilities which include BJC, SSM Health, Mercy, and St. Luke’s.

“We have around 468 patients who are currently hospitalized who have either tested positive for COVID or are a patient under investigation,” said Dr.Garza.

164 of those are in intensive care units. Of those patients, 139 are using ventilators. Garza said health care professionals predict to see a peak of patients in hospitals in two to three weeks.

“The only way to prevent that is to prevent spread. If we prevent spread, we prevent infections. If we prevent infections, then we prevent patients from coming into our healthcare facilities,” said Dr.Garza.  

He said the estimated numbers during the peak are 1,300 to 3,300 plus. 

The trend in the St. Louis area is like what professionals are seeing nationally. Thirty percent of patients will need intensive care, while 70% of those patients will need ventilators.

“We are handling all of the current patients fine, but we know If we are pushed to that level, it’s going to put a strain on our resources. 

Those resources are still limited, as testing is not widely available. It has been prioritized for healthcare workers at high risk.

He also said the task force is competing against other healthcare systems, states, and cites for personal protective equipment.  

“The strategy we put in place is how do we look at risks for our employees? Certainly, patients who have COVID that are being taken care of, those workers are at high risks. We ensure they have all the PPE they need,” said Dr.Garza.

Garza also addressed the new CDC guidelines recommending the use of masks outside of the healthcare system.

He said it doesn’t hurt for people to wear cloth masks when in places where it’s difficult to keep a distance between others, but people should not use the N95 masks that healthcare workers so desperately need.

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