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ST. LOUIS – The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is warning counties along the Interstate 44 corridor that COVID-19 cases are surging in the southwest and central parts of the state due to the Delta variant, and says the virus will likely move east toward St. Louis.

Greene County, Missouri, has become a national hotspot for COVID cases over the past three weeks, with the Delta variant driving the resurgence of the virus. The Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 spreads more easily and poses a higher risk of hospitalization.

On Tuesday, the state health department posted a public health warning to Laclede, Pulaski, and Phelps counties that the virus is moving east from Southwest Missouri along I-44.

Vaccination rates in Laclede (24.3%), Pulaski (32.5%), and Phelps (31.3%) counties are well below the state’s overall rate of 40%.

Vaccination rates in the St. Louis region are some of the highest in the state. But, they pale in comparison to what is needed to prevent a surge in infections. St. Louis County’s rate of people who have completed COVID vaccination is at 44.6 percent. A look around the region reveals that St. Louis City is at 34.8 percent, Jefferson County is at 30.8 percent, and St. Charles County is at 44.2 percent.

Medical experts say at least 70% to 80% of people need immunity to minimize spread within the general population. The safest way to be immunized is through vaccination.

Those who choose not to get vaccinated are asked to continue wearing a mask, maintain at least six feet of distance from others, avoid others that appear to be sick, and avoid people if you have COVID symptoms, in addition to standard hygienic behaviors like regular hand washing.

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