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ST. LOUIS– The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force says the COVID virus is coming back and it’s stronger than ever before.

Dr. Clay Dunagan with the task force said Southwest Missouri is having an extreme problem with COVID-19 and hospitals there are running out of places for patients.

He warned that St. Louis is just beginning to get on a similar rising curve.

“At this point, we don’t see any evidence that we are going to see a different trajectory unless aggressive action is taken,” said Dr. Dunagan.

He said the two weapons we have to fight this are vaccinations and masking.

The task force said 51.2% of people age 18 and up are fully vaccinated in the St. Louis region.

He said that even if everyone got vaccinated today it would still take weeks to flatten the curve.

Dr. Dunagan also said we need to be worried about the virus mutating. The Delta variant is just one mutation but he said at any given time we may be dealing with a new variant. He said when the mutations become predominant they are more easily spreadable. He said then the only way to get past that cycle is to reach a higher level of immunity in the community.

The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force hospitals are seeing the highest number of hospitalizations since early March.

It also comes as Missouri health officials announced more than 2,300 confirmed COVID-19 cases on Thursday, the first time that’s happened since Jan. 14, 2021.

The task force just released new data showing the number of new hospital admissions rose again and is up 7 from yesterday to 49.

The area is also seeing the highest number of ICU patients since mid-February.