ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – St. Louis area health care systems are reporting an increase in more people getting tested for COVID-19. This is happening as St. Louis County says more vaccinated people are testing positive for the coronavirus.
Drive-thru COVID testing sites have become busier in recent days as the St. Louis County Department of Public Health reports about 20% of the new delta variant infections are in individuals who are fully vaccinated.
Doctors say it is very rare that a vaccinated person will be infected with COVID but they say it points out the need for everyone to mask up, social distance, and wash your hands.
“It’s a disturbing phenomenon but it goes along with how contagious we know the delta variant is,” said Dr. Jim Hinrich, infectious disease advisor for the county health department.
Dr. Bruce Hall, BJC HealthCare vice president and chief quality officer, says the vaccine offers protection even for people who still catch the virus.
“It tells us that no vaccine is perfect—we knew that—but the protection of the vaccine against serious illness and mortality is higher than that would appear because those patients are having mild illnesses,” he said.
Many of the breakthrough cases are showing up in health care workers and first responders who were the first to be vaccinated at the beginning of this year.
“The single thing that really sticks out when I look at these is that very frequently, there’s another household member that was not vaccinated becomes ill and that vaccinated person then has a lot of exposure,” Dr. Hinrich said.
Health systems may not be returning to the pop-up drive-thru tests sites that we saw early in the pandemic. But hospital groups like BJC are seeing an increase in those who want to get tested.
“We can perform above 8,000 tests a week and, until very recently, we were only in the 5,000 (range) so we were very comfortable,” Dr. Hall said. “We have seen an uptick in that we are seeing our testing going up more toward 7,000, so this is something we are watching very carefully. I think the community is much better off than we were before but if we need more sites in the next couple of weeks, we’ll take those actions.”