Medical experts anticipate more than 2,000 COVID hospitalizations in St. Louis area in a couple of weeks


ST. LOUIS – An alarming prediction from the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force on Wednesday. The current number of 1,114 COVID patients hospitalized in the St. Louis area is likely to double in a couple of weeks.

The task force says that 49 COVID-19 deaths have been reported in local hospitals since the beginning of the year – the last five days.

One doctor calls the rapid spread of the omicron variant of COVID in the region “horrific.”

“This surge is unlike anyone we’ve seen before,” said Dr. Aamina Akhtar, chief medical officer at Mercy South. “The velocity with which patients are coming into our healthcare systems, the volume that we’re seeing, along with the diminished labor capacity, really points to what I would describe as a horrific outlook currently.”

Akhtar and three other medical experts with the task force held a media briefing Wednesday and expressed a grim situation for the spread of COVID, and the crush on the area hospitals, as the task force deals with a surge of patients and short staffing problems because healthcare workers are testing positive and unable to work.

“The pandemic right now is winning. And the fear is—we think we’re pretty well grounded in thinking this—is that it’s going to get worse before it gets better,” said Dr. Alex Garza, incident commander of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force.

Meanwhile, BJC HealthCare announced Wednesday it will postpone elective procedures beginning Jan. 6 because of the surge in COVID patients.

“We’re trying to mobilize, really, we’re cannibalizing our workforce to cover. There’s not an endless supply of people who can parachute in and help out,” Garza said.

Dr. Garza fears that other illnesses or conditions such as heart attacks, strokes, and cancer cases may go untreated.

“There are also some other tools that we’ve had in the past that are more limited. Monoclonal antibody therapies were helping us keep people out of the hospital but the tools that we were using, the monoclonal antibodies that were available, really aren’t effective against the omicron variant,” said Dr. Clay Dunagan, BJC HealthCare’s chief clinical officer.

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