Pandemic Task Force warns that reopening St. Louis region too quickly could be catastrophic


ST. LOUIS, Mo. – With protests and frustrations starting to surface in the St. Louis region, the area’s medical community held firm today in vowing that any efforts to reopen the region too quickly could be catastrophic.   During his daily briefing, St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force Commander Dr. Alex Garza acknowledged the fear and frustration but cautioned against the inclination to move too fast. 

“We are starting to plan and think about reopening”, said Dr. Garza.  “A lot of people are working very hard on these issues of reopening.  We must do this right.  We don’t get a second chance to do this right.” 

In his daily briefings, Dr. Garza has argued that as the region reaches its apex of COVID-19 cases and plateaus in the amount of hospitalizations it sees, the planning to reopen our communities and economy must have a structured approach. 

“If we rush too quickly, we will have lost most of the progress we’ve made,” continued Garza. 

The St Louis area has seen some grass roots efforts this week to protest the continuing shutdown of the region and government mandated “stay at home” orders. 

A larger protest occurred today in the Missouri capital in Jefferson City.  Dr. Garza said the medical community isn’t comfortable with any plans until widespread testing in the region is available. He also feels the region needs to have enough medical resources available to comfortably begin the process to reopen.   If not, Garza says that the reopening of St Louis too rapidly comes with profound consequences. 

“The potential is a rapid rise in cases.  It’s not that the virus has gone away.  The virus is still there.  We still have a substantial part of the population that is at risk.” 

During today’s briefing, Garza also updated the local data that the medical community is using to gauge the apex, and how the healthcare systems are managing the demand.  That data includes the amount of COVID-19 hospitalizations.  Today that number stood at 750 patients occupying hospital beds in the region’s four major healthcare systems, which include BJC, SSM, Mercy, and St. Luke’s systems.  In addition to hospitalizations, the region currently has 187 patients occupying ICU beds, and 130 patients on ventilators. 

Those numbers are all slightly down from those released yesterday.  There were 43 patients discharged from area hospitals yesterday, bringing the total number of patients discharged to 572 since the COVID-19 crisis began.

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