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ST. LOUIS, Mo. – For the first time since mid-September, the St. Louis region has again seen a troubling jump in pediatric COVID cases. This comes at a time when many area school districts are announcing relaxation of masking rules and going ‘mask optional’ when they return after the holiday break

The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force reported Monday that 21 children were hospitalized. It’s the highest number of pediatric hospitalizations since the third week of September. By Tuesday, the number of hospitalizations had grown to 24 children.

Of the 21 children being treated, three of them are in ICU beds. That’s the highest number of kids getting critical care in nearly a month. The total hospitalizations include eight children under the age of 11 getting care and 13 children between 12-18 years of age receiving treatment. 

There may be a silver lining in today’s report. Medical officials report there may be a “flattening” taking place of the most recent surge in hospitalizations. While both ICU beds and patients on ventilators have increased today, the number of patients hospitalized has decreased. 

The surge in hospitalizations in this winter surge has been breathtaking at times. Just a month ago, the region had only 242 patients hospitalized for COVID. That number has doubled with 502 people getting treatment.  

The region has also seen a disheartening spike in deaths in December with 88 deaths reported at task force hospitals. That number compares with only 53 deaths in the first 13 days of November, a 66% increase in deaths in the last month.