After months of regression, COVID-19 trending upward in St. Louis, pandemic task force chief says


ST. LOUIS – There’s a new trend emerging in the spread of COVID-19 in the St. Louis area: upward.

If you look at the latest charts from the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, the one thing that really jumps out at you is still the downward slope St. Louis has been on for the spread of COVID-19 for the past couple of months – until you get to July.

“It’s really another reminder that the virus hasn’t gone away,” said Dr. Alex Garza, Incident Commander of the Task Force.

While the trend of more people testing positive may be a result of more people being tested, the trend in St. Louis-area daily COVID-19 hospitalizations is another matter, according to Garza.

The number of confirmed and suspected COVID-19 patients in hospitals are still down, peaking at 757 in April, falling to 487 when St. Louis City and St. Louis County began reopening May 18, and down to 212 just 10 days ago.

Tuesday’s number was up to 315.

There’s more.

“If you start slicing the data and you start looking symptomatic patients, the patients who come to our facilities to get tested because they’re feeling sick with symptoms consistent with COVID – we’ve seen a gradual increase in that percentage,” Garza said. “It’s getting close to the percentage we saw in the very beginning of the pandemic.”

That percentage was then upwards of 20 percent, he said.

According to Garza, we should consider getting tested when symptoms seem unusual, beyond typical seasonal allergies, for instance. Young people typically have milder symptoms, he said, all the more reason to wear masks and to plan for possible disruptions as students return to school.

“We’re seeing it with the Major Leagues (baseball) now, right? These cases are popping up in random places. It’s disrupting team practices. You take that cloistered group, multiply it by 1,000, there’s your school,” Garza said. “We really do have to participate in these strategies that help mitigate transmission. The best one that the evidence shows is really wearing a mask. Out of all them, that really is the best one. The mask wearing policies (St. Louis City/County mask wearing orders) haven’t even been in effect for a week. It takes a couple of replication cycles of the virus to see ‘is that having an impact on transmission?’ So, we’ll wait about two weeks to see whether that mask wearing has brought those cases down in the community.”

As things stand now, he can’t imagine fans in the stands for Cardinals games in Busch Stadium this summer.

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