ST. LOUIS – The head of a healthcare nonprofit says we’re seeing a surge in COVID cases in our area and warns that SARS-CoV-2 will most likely never go away.

Kendra Holmes, president and CEO of Affinia Healthcare, says experts were expecting a big jump in the summer and they got it.

“Currently, we’re about 30% positive in some areas of St. Louis City, that is in comparison to about 1-3% previously,” she said. “That really is not a true record of where we are, because a lot of people are utilizing home tests, so that 30% is possibly much higher.”

Holmes says there are a lot of factors to blame for the big jump in cases.

“Well, we’re at a point (when) children are going back to school, individuals are at home more, so just like any respiratory illness, it’s spreading,” she said. “People are out and about… But really, when kids go back to school, we see that spread.”

Holmes says there is a silver lining – there are not as many people being hospitalized as before.

“People now understand what this Illness is; people have been vaccinated. I will say again: vaccinations absolutely work at preventing severe illness and death,” she said. “We know what to do; we’ve been here before. The great thing is although those numbers have increased, they’re half of what they were last year. We know what to do. So, if you test positive, stay at home for five days with an additional five days of masking. If you have symptoms, don’t expose individuals to this disease.”

At the moment, the federal government has halted reimbursing agencies for the vaccine. But the St. Louis City and County Health Departments still offer vaccines at no charge, as does Affinia Healthcare. Holmes says COVID isn’t going away, and like the common cold and flu, we’ll have to make smart decisions and live with it.

“Businesses need to be open. Children need to go to school. We need to do what we need to do to make this not what it was three years ago,” she said.