ST. LOUIS — The number of new cases of COVID-19 continued to slide statewide as Missouri recorded just one death from the infection on Saturday.
Missouri saw 1,756 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to 380,643, the Department of Health and Senior Services reported online.
The single COVID-related death brought the total number to 5,309.
The number of new cases has been generally trending lower since late November, when a number of local governments began adopting new public health orders to contain the spread of the virus.
Franklin and Jefferson counties, for example, adopted mask mandates at the end of November; St. Louis County ordered restaurants and bars to stop indoor service. Some health experts said those policies have indeed helped steer caseloads down toward safer levels, along with some general improvement in the pandemic behavior and consciousness of the broader public.
“More people are taking this seriously as more friends and family are getting it,” said Pam Walker, St. Louis’ former city health director, who is a consultant for local governments and other entities.
Even once people recover from the virus, Walker said a hard-earned lesson is increasingly reinforced to others around them: “Getting it and surviving isn’t that much more fun than not getting it.”
Missouri reported Saturday that the number of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 was 2,821 statewide, a decrease of 41 from the record high reported a day ealier. But the seven-day moving average of virus-related hospitalizations remains near an all-time high, at 2,764 — just shy of the record of 2,769 hospitalized patients reported on Nov. 23.
While the pressure on hospitals remains high, there are some hopeful signs.
The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force said new hospital admissions fell to 84 on Saturday from 107 the day before. The seven-day moving average of hospitalizations fell to 850 Saturday from 853.
There is a two-day lag on hospitalization data, which comes from the St. Louis area’s four major health systems: BJC HealthCare, Mercy, SSM Health and St. Luke’s Hospital.
St. Louis County, the state’s largest county, on Saturday reported 559 new cases, bringing the year-to-date total to 66,843. It also reported eight deaths, raising the death toll to 1,342. The county’s data is more up-to-date than the state’s.
Illinois, meanwhile, reported 3,293 new coronavirus infections Saturday, for a total of 934,142 confirmed cases since the pandemic began.
The state also recorded 66 additional deaths from the disease, bringing its total to 15,865 fatalities and 1,359 probable deaths associated with the virus. The state’s reported test positivity rate of 6.8% marked the first time since Oct. 29 that the figure has been less than 7%.
Walker, in St. Louis, stressed that human interventions — like wearing masks and social distancing — will remain critical for reining in the virus over the next several months, as vaccination efforts ramp up. She thinks that a much more normal way of life could return by summer, or even sooner.
“Keep telling people to hang in there,” she said. “They don’t have too long to put up with this, I don’t think.”Updated at 4 p.m.