ST. LOUIS – Numbers released Monday by the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force paint a dire picture for the region amidst a chaotic surge in COVID cases locally. That surge—now attributed to the omicron variant—has pushed total hospitalizations over 1,000 patients for the first time since Dec. 2020 and for only the eleventh time in the history of the pandemic.
The latest numbers are chock full of new pandemic records, including the highest number of pediatric patients ever hospitalized under the COVID-19 pandemic.
The latest numbers are unsettling, to say the least. There are now 964 COVID-19 positive patients hospitalized in task force hospitals, which include the SSM, BJC, Mercy, and St. Luke’s health care systems. Those virus-positive patients are coupled with another 42 people who are believed to have the virus, resulting in total hospitalizations now numbering 1,006 patients.
The task force reports we have the most patients in ICU in a year, with 175 patients now needing critical care. There were 180 ICU patients a year ago, on Jan. 4, 2021. A year ago, vaccinations were not readily available in the entire St. Louis community. They are now. An additional 106 patients are now on ventilators, needing the devices to help them breathe. That’s also the highest number in nearly a year, with 107 patients on ventilators on Jan. 5, 2021.
Perhaps most worrisome are the latest numbers on pediatric cases. Today’s numbers show a total of 54 children hospitalized with COVID in task force hospitals. The previous high mark for pediatric cases was when 31 children were hospitalized on Sept. 1, 2021. Today’s number shatters that mark and nearly doubles the 26 kids reported hospitalized when the task force last reported numbers, just after Christmas on Dec. 30, 2021.
In four days, the task force says pediatric hospitalizations increased by 28 patients; rising from 26 on Dec. 30 to the 54 cases reported today. Among those hospitalizations, a staggering 13 patients are now in ICU care, with eight of those coming in the 0 to 11 age group.
The task force says deaths are also on the rise. The 7-day average of deaths in area hospitals has now climbed to double-digits at 10 patients per day succumbing to the virus. Twenty-eight patients have died in the first three days of the new year. The region closed out 2021 with 244 deaths in December in task force hospitals.
The omicron variant surge shows no evidence of flattening or getting better. After setting a single-day record for admissions on Dec. 30 with 169 new hospital admissions, the region broke that record the very next day with 188 new admissions on New Year’s Eve. Another 188 were admitted on New Year’s Day, and that was followed by another 161 new patients on Jan. 2 and another 159 yesterday. In all, that’s seven straight days of hospital admissions topping 100 patients and a whopping total of 1,115 patients admitted in the last week. Exactly 845 patients were discharged from hospital beds in that same 7-day stretch. The 7-day average of admissions has pushed up to 159 patients, a new regional record during the entire pandemic.
The escalation of this latest surge is more rapid than anything experienced during the pandemic. At Thanksgiving, the region had only 318 total hospitalizations. The latest numbers translate to a 216% increase in hospitalizations from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. And the omicron variant is apparently living up to its name as an extremely contagious and transmissible variant. The task force now reports that of the 964 COVID-positive patients now hospitalized, 315 of those patients are vaccinated. That means 33% of hospitalizations now involve vaccinated people. It also means 67% of all hospitalizations involve the unvaccinated. The 33% number is the highest reported to date.