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Hospitalizations and new cases of coronavirus continue worrisome trend in Missouri

Hospitalizations and new cases of coronavirus continue worrisome trend in Missouri

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Missouri continued to track dangerous trends of new coronavirus cases on Sunday as well as increasing numbers of people hospitalized.

Rural and urban areas are all seeing cases added to their tallies at the highest rates since the pandemic began, data shows. Statewide, the seven-day average of daily new cases peaked at 572. It was 409 just a week ago.

Jefferson County reported its highest ever daily count Saturday, with 42 new illnesses. Another 10 cases were reported Sunday.

“We are experiencing the repercussions of lax attitudes toward preventive safety measures such as wearing masks and social distancing over the holiday,” said county health director Kelley Vollmar in a statement. “Immediate behavioral changes are needed to stem the coming strain on our health care system as the disease spreads from younger, healthier populations to those more at risk.”

New local hospital admissions for COVID-19 increased from 35 the day before to 36, according to Sunday’s report by the St. Louis-area pandemic task force. That makes three days in a row of new admission numbers in the 30s.

The seven-day average of hospital admissions increased from 26 to 27, the highest since the third week of May, according to the task force’s last press conference on Friday.

The average number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 increased from 168 to 171. The number of those in intensive care units increased from 40 to 45, and those needing ventilators increased from 21 to 23.

The pandemic task force includes St. Luke’s Hospital as well as area BJC HealthCare, Mercy and SSM Health hospitals.

Statewide, hospitalizations for COVID-19 are the highest they have been since early May. The latest data from July 9 shows 888 people in Missouri were hospitalized — a sharp increase since July 4, when 707 were hospitalized, according to data maintained by the Missouri Hospital Association.

The area that includes the city of St. Louis and its surrounding counties in Missouri has seen an average of 245 new cases a day over the past week, according to the latest regional analysis by St. Louis University sociologist Chris Prener.

That is the highest since mid-April, when the St. Louis area was seeing an average of 200 new cases a day. The area had been seeing fewer than 100 new cases a day for most of May and June, Prener’s data shows.

The city of St. Louis, St. Louis County and Jefferson County have seen their number of cases increase 23% to 28% over the past two weeks, according to the University of Missouri’s tracking site that shows cases through Friday.

Over the same time period in St. Charles County, cases increased by 57% — adding 579 cases to reach a total of 1,599.

Franklin County saw an increase of 34% as it added 69 cases for a total of 273; and Warren County saw an increase of 103% as it added 41 to reach a total of 81.

Counties around Jefferson City and Springfield also have seen their cases more than double over the past two weeks, Mizzou’s website shows.

Missouri on Sunday recorded 310 new cases, bringing the total to 27,443, and five deaths, which total 1,069.

The number of new deaths per day in Missouri has stayed between zero and 17 over the past three weeks after seeing a spike of 37 on June 18.

Absentee ballot motion rejected

A move to make it easier for Missourians to vote by mail during the pandemic was rejected Friday in a lawsuit seeking to allow all Missourians to cast absentee ballots without notarization in 2020.

Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem denied the motion for a preliminary injunction sought by the Missouri NAACP and the League of Women Voters, the Jefferson City News-Tribune reported.

Under a new law, only people considered at-risk of the coronavirus — those age 65 and older, living in a long-term care facility or with certain existing health problems — can vote absentee without having their ballot notarized.

The Missouri Supreme Court ruled last month that Beetem was wrong to dismiss it and sent the lawsuit back for further review.

Beetem said Friday the groups presented no new arguments.

“Absent evidence that the ‘consistently effective social distancing and related strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19’ could not be employed in the notary circumstances, the court concludes that plaintiffs have not made a convincing showing of irreparable harm from the notarization requirement for mail-in ballots,” he wrote.

Deaths may rise

Health officials fear the number of deaths may rise if the spread of COVID-19, which local officials attribute to young adults, reaches more at-risk populations; or if the increasing number of those going into the hospital get sicker.

Dr. Alex Garza, head of the St. Louis-area pandemic task force, discussed this fear at his most recent press conference on Friday.

“Although most of the data still shows that it’s a younger population that’s becoming infected with the virus, this absolutely increases the probability that it’s going to affect the vulnerable population as well,” Garza said. “This is what we are seeing with our increase in (hospital) admissions.”

It takes a majority of the public to turn the tide of an accelerating rate of new cases by wearing masks, washing hands and staying safe distances from others, he said. “Now is the time to really redouble our efforts.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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