JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The White House Pandemic Task Force says Missouri needs to do a better job on its COVID-19 mitigation strategies.
The report came out earlier this week and says Missouri needs strategies like more masking, no indoor gatherings, and aggressive testing.
For months, Gov. Mike Parson has left mask requirements and other mandates up to the local levels. House Minority Leader from Springfield Crystal Quade said it’s time for the governor to step up and make some decisions.
“There is nothing wrong with an elected official saying, ‘hey I changed my mind, we need to do something better now,'” Quade said. “We have several thousand Missourians who have lost their lives and continue to see an increase in numbers of positive cases and the Trump White House telling us we got to do more.”
The report also lists the top 12 counties based on the number of new cases in the last 3 weeks. Those counties include St. Louis County, St. Charles County, Jefferson County, St. Louis City, Franklin County, and St. Francois County in our area.
Missouri is 32nd in the country when it comes to the national ranking of new cases.
Parson is not holding a COVID-19 briefing this week but Communications Director Kelli Jones said in a statement:
Governor Mike Parson has led with a balanced approach since day one of this pandemic and will continue to do so. He and his administration monitor data and work closely with the Missouri Hospital Association and our panel of infectious disease doctors to monitor the statewide health care system and capacity. Our entire administration is here to support our health care workers and health care delivery system. Missouri’s COVID-19 numbers are up and continue to increase. It is imperative that Missourians take personal responsibility and social distance, wear a mask, practice personal hygiene, and limit their gatherings.
Governor Parson has been very clear and consistent about his support for local control. Every individual MUST take action to minimize the spread of COVID-19.
On Wednesday, Governor Mike Parson announced a 12-week partnership with Vizient, the nation’s leading health care performance improvement company, to bring in additional staff and further expand statewide hospital capacity.
Through the partnership, Vizient could deploy up to 760 additional staff members through its contracted agencies to multiple, geographically dispersed hospitals across the state, including registered nurses, respiratory therapists, and certified nurse assistants. When fully deployed, the plan could add nearly 600 hospital beds to Missouri’s statewide bed capacity.
The state will fund the first phase of the project through the end of this year using CARES Act funding, and hospital partners will fund the remainder.
“I understand that we are seeing the same messaging and kind of digging in from the Governor’s Mansion, but there’s nothing wrong with saying we have to make something different,” Quade said. “It’s up to the rest of us, like the governor has said to have some personal responsibility here, but along with that personal responsibility, we need to see some leadership from the top.”
Quade said it’s not too late for the governor to implement a mask mandate or to limit indoor gatherings.
“The way that we get back to normal, the way we support our small businesses and the way that we protect ourselves and our loved ones is by listening to the White House Task Force and implementing some of the things that folks are begging us to do,” Quade said.
Here are some of the highlights from the report:
- Missouri is in the red zone for cases, indicating 101 or more new cases per 100,000 population, with the 32nd highest rate in the country. Missouri is in the red zone for test positivity, indicating a rate at or above 10.1%, with the 9th highest rate in the country.
- Missouri has seen a decrease in new cases and stability in test positivity.
- The following three counties had the highest number of new cases over the last 3 weeks: 1. St. Louis County, 2. Jackson County, and 3. St. Charles County. These counties represent 37.9% of new cases in Missouri.
- 91% of all counties in Missouri have moderate or high levels of community transmission (yellow, orange, or red zones), with 83% having high levels of community transmission (red zone).
- Missouri had 388 new cases per 100,000 population, compared to a national average of 385 per 100,000.
- The federal government has supported surge testing in Columbia, Cape Giradeau, Branson, Lee’s Summit, and St. Louis.
Here are some of the recommendations from the report:
- Mitigation efforts must increase, including the implementation of key state and local policies with an additional focus on uniform behavioral change including masking, physical distancing, hand hygiene, no indoor gatherings outside of immediate households, and aggressive testing to find the asymptomatic individuals responsible for the majority of infectious spread.
- In the past week, significant reductions in testing and increases in percent positivity were observed. Primarily those with symptoms are being diagnosed; aggressive testing to find asymptomatic individuals responsible for the majority of infectious spread must be scaled.
- The current vaccine implementation will not substantially reduce viral spread, hospitalizations, or fatalities until the 100 million Americans with comorbidities can be fully immunized, which will take until the late spring. Behavioral change and aggressive mitigation policies are the only widespread prevention tools that we have to address this winter surge.
- Must increase testing levels to find asymptomatic individuals to remove the source of spread.
- Universities must have weekly testing plans in place for the spring semester, mandatorily testing all students weekly to prevent spread in the community. Universities that tested all students weekly starting the first week of the fall semester saw between 75% and 90% fewer cases than those who did not. For the remaining time in the current semester, students must be tested weekly prior to returning home for winter break.
- Effective practices to decrease transmission in public spaces include limiting restaurant indoor capacity to <25% and closing bars/limiting bar hours until cases and test positivity decrease to the yellow zone.
- Ensure compliance with public health orders, including wearing masks. Ensure full flu immunizations across the state.
- Ensure all hospitals and clinical sites have updated training on the use and timing of effective interventions, contingency staffing plans with appropriate task-shifting, and maximized access to medications and supplies.
- Conduct active testing in schools for teachers and students where cases are increasing. In accordance with CDC guidelines, masks must be worn by students and teachers in K-12 schools. Consider pausing extracurricular school activities, even though athletics