ST. LOUIS, Mo. – For the first time since the height of the delta variant surge, the St. Louis area is now reporting nearly two dozen children hospitalized with COVID and the highest number of kids in ICU beds in three months.  In less than one week, the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force reports the region has seen pediatric ICU cases climb from one child to now seven. 

This comes as many school districts have announced a mask optional policy when school resumes after the holiday break.  Those new policies come as pressure mounts from Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt for schools to remove mandatory masking policies after courts agreed with his stance that the schools were not allowed to issue masking rules.

The region also saw another surge in adult patients into area hospitals with the latest numbers counting 79 new hospital admissions overnight.  The latest figures show 450 hospital admissions in the St. Louis region in the last seven days, offset by only 435 discharges in that same span. 

Winter surge strain:

The Task Force reported Tuesday the hospital systems were beginning to feel the strain of the winter surge of the virus and said models now indicate we may match last winter’s COVID chaos.  Task Force leaders believe the region will match last winter as soon as early January 2022 if the virus transmission in the region goes unchecked. 

Task Force doctors charged with reviewing the region’s COVID hospitalization numbers also have drawn some conclusions from this most recent surge.  They believe the data shows a clear demonstration that vaccines are working to help many stay out of the hospitals.  As the number of hospitalizations has risen over the past month, the percentage of breakthrough cases, or those who are hospitalized and vaccinated, has fallen.  Task Force doctors point to these numbers as they argue that the strain on hospital COVID floors right now is primarily centered on treating the very sick, unvaccinated patients. 

Pediatric vaccinations have been around only a short while, so there is no evidence of breakthrough cases among children, though the Task Force is checking to see if any of the children currently hospitalized are also vaccinated.  Most of the pediatric patients currently being treated are children with other medical issues according to Task Force doctors. 

Missouri Attorney General Schmitt’s comment

Regarding the increases in pediatric cases, Missouri Attorney General Schmitt responded to a request for comment by Fox 2 News last night.  His spokesman told us, “All of our actions have been to put the power back in the hands of parents and children and out of the hands of power-hungry bureaucrats. Children have a low risk of contracting, spreading, or becoming seriously ill from COVID-19.  The St. Louis Pandemic Task Force can continue to stoke fear, but St. Louis Public Schools and other area school districts have had mask mandates for over a year, which proves that masks don’t work if they’re reporting a ’surge’ in cases.  Further, a number of school districts across the state have imposed mask mandates for months and yet still experience the same ebbs and flows that the entire state does in cases. It’s time that we recognize that this virus is endemic, and that people should have the ability to make their own choices for their kids.”

Delta Variant Surge

There are currently 527 total hospitalizations in Task Force hospitals locally.  They include 127 patients in ICU beds and 81 patients on ventilators.  Those numbers are the highest single-day totals in the region since late-September when we are struggling through the ‘Delta Variant Surge’.  The Task Force reported five more deaths in today’s report, bringing the total number of deaths in December to 101 people.  With just over two weeks left in 2021, the Task Force has reported 1,966 COVID deaths in its hospitals this year.