St. Louis health officials warn we could see more restrictions as COVID hospitalizations rise

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ST. LOUIS – Call it a coronavirus wake-up call for St. Louis. Health officials are warning the area could soon see the return of more COVID-19 restrictions after an alarming surge in hospitalizations.

The region has hit an unfortunate milestone this week with more than 500 (513) confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients in hospitals across the region. The region last topped 500 on May 13.

“I think you’ll see conversations similar to what we’ve seen in the past. We’re not ready to draft those orders. We’re not ready to talk about restrictions yet,” St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page said.

The county executive pointed out that he did not unilaterally impose restrictions but instead followed the lead of public health professionals and science. He hoped the politicization of the pandemic would fade after Election Day on Tuesday.

“We’re watching this very closely but we know that if we don’t bend this curve, we’ll be having some very real conversations about whether or not we’ll have to take a step backwards. It’s not anything any of us wants to see,” Page said.

Numbers are currently moving in the wrong direction. COVID-19 hospitalizations peaked in the St. Louis region April 20, with 757 confirmed/suspected patients, 196 in ICU, and 142 on ventilators, according to the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force.

By June 27, hospitalizations hit a low for the pandemic (212) with ICU and ventilator patients—47 and 30, respectively—way down.

This week’s numbers (513 hospitalizations, 88 ICU, and 47 on ventilators) were certainly cause for concern, Page said. We’re much closer to those highest numbers in April’s than those lowest numbers in June.

There’s been no return to stay home orders yet because we know more now about the virus and how to limit its spread, Page said.

Though new daily cases in the county were up from an average of 150 to between 250 and 260, the number was not doubling every few days like earlier in the pandemic, he said.

It’s simply time for everyone to step up again now like they did then, according to Page, especially with colder weather and more people staying inside, breathing “shared air.”

“And we know what we need to do,” Page said. “We need to comply with our social distancing orders. We need to be wearing masks whenever we can’t socially distance. We need to avoid crowds, especially in indoor places. This is our new normal.”

New numbers from the pandemic task force Thursday afternoon showed total hospitalizations had fallen from 513 to below 500 again (496). Daily new hospitalizations fell from 72 to 52.

With Halloween just two days away, Page advised people to check county guidelines and ideas for how to celebrate safely. There is no ban on trick-or-treating in St. Louis County.

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