Deaths mount in St. Louis as COVID surge shows no sign of flattening

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ST. LOUIS – For a second straight day, St. Louis area hospital admissions have topped 200 patients as struggling healthcare systems struggle to keep up. The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force reported those numbers Thursday, as well as an alarming additional 21 deaths—the highest single-day death total in almost a year.

New numbers show 206 admissions to task force hospitals, which are comprised of the SSM, BJC, Mercy, and St. Luke’s health systems. The region has pushed past the 1,200 patient benchmark for the first time during the pandemic, with 1,158 COVID-positive patients now hospitalized and joined by another 61 patients receiving care and suspected of having the virus. In all, that totals 1,219 patients now needing the attention of healthcare workers as they struggle to battle the virus.

The omicron variant—which is proving to be much more transmissible than previous variants—has pushed the region to new records for a 7-day average of admissions (now 184 patients per day) and the 7-day average of hospitalizations (now at 975 patients).

The deaths are concerning to the task force, which admitted in a news conference Wednesday that it is struggling to provide care to those seeking help in emergency rooms throughout the St. Louis region. With 21 new deaths, the bi-state metroplex has now recorded 70 deaths in the first six days of 2022.

Single-day death totals this high have only previously been seen when vaccines were not available—or readily available—to the general population. The highest single-day death total reported by the task force was the 31 deaths reported on December 23, 2020. Since then, vaccinations began in the region and significantly reduced the number of people succumbing to the virus.

Omicron has changed that dynamic as it continues to spread like wildfire in the region and has pushed death totals to alarming numbers.

Additionally, the task force reports that pediatric hospitalizations have pushed back over the 60-patient barrier with 31 children between the ages of 0-11 and another 29 between the ages of 12 and 18 now hospitalized. Thirteen of those pediatric patients are receiving critical care in ICU beds. Ten of those pediatric ICU patients are under the age of 11.

Vaccinated patients continue to account for less than one-third of all hospitalizations according to today’s numbers. Of the 1,158 COVID-positive patients, 332 of them are vaccinated. That translates to 31% of all patients having some form of vaccination. It also means that a whopping 69% of all patients getting care at this time are unvaccinated. Task force doctors have argued that vaccinations can prevent severe cases of COVID and can help in reducing a patient’s need for hospitalization.

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