ST. LOUIS — On the day after St. Louis area health care leaders strongly urged Gov. Mike Parson to take bolder action to stop the spread of the coronavirus, Missouri reported its biggest one-day increase in COVID-19 cases.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services on Saturday reported 6,346 more people had tested positive, bringing the total number of cases since the start of the pandemic to 235,722. The death toll rose by 14 to 3,373.
Hospitalizations across the state also hit a record of 2,523 on Friday, an increase of about 23% in one week. The positive test rate, a key measure showing how widespread the virus is, was 24.3%.
Missouri is now seeing 28,000 new cases per week, equivalent to a seven-day average of 4,000 new cases, DHSS said Saturday in a news release. During the previous week, the rate was 2,800 new cases per day.
In a statement, Dr. Randall Williams, DHSS director, urged Missourians to continue to “physically distance, wear masks, use hand sanitizer and avoid congregating indoors when possible, even during the holidays.”
Meanwhile, Illinois reported 11,028 new cases, bringing the statewide total to 562,985. The number of deaths rose by 166 — the third-highest one-day increase — to 10,670, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported Saturday. Hospitalizations rose to 5,415, a record.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker, citing the spike in cases, on Friday announced he was extending several coronavirus-related executive orders for another 30 days, including an extension of a moratorium on evictions.
Plea for action
The Post-Dispatch on Friday reported that several St. Louis-area hospitals have been forced to turn away patients from outside the metropolitan area because they lacked enough staffed beds. Also Friday, the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, citing the swift rise in hospitalizations because of COVID, called on Parson to take steps to curb the spread of the coronavirus, including imposing a statewide mask mandate.
Parson, who has resisted calls for a mask mandate, responded to the St. Louis plea Friday by reiterating his support for “local control” and urging Missourians to “take personal responsibility.”
Missouri is one of 15 states — all led by Republican governors — that have no statewide mask mandate. But in the face of rising infections, resistance is fading — most recently in North Dakota, where Gov. Doug Burgum, a Republican, ordered a statewide mask mandate and imposed several business restrictions late Friday.
In a video message announcing his new restrictions, which took effect Saturday and will remain in effect until Dec. 13, a somber Burgum said, “Our situation has changed, and we must change with it.”
Local records broken
St. Louis County reported 805 new cases Saturday, bringing the total since the beginning of the pandemic to 40,359. The death toll rose to 914 with two additional deaths. The county is imposing new restrictions beginning Tuesday to curb the spread of the virus. Among measures outlined Friday by County Executive Sam Page: Bars and restaurants will be closed to inside patrons.
On Saturday, the St. Louis task force said hospital admissions fell to 114 from 125 on Friday, but the seven-day average of new admissions rose to 107 from 105, a record. And the seven-day total hospitalizations average climbed to 653 from 628, also a record. The task force reports data from the metro area’s four biggest hospital systems: BJC HealthCare, Mercy, SSM Health and St. Luke’s.
While St. Louis County, the state’s largest county by population, accounts for the highest number of cases in Missouri, rural counties are where the virus appears to be spreading fastest.
Perry County, about 80 miles south of St. Louis, currently has the highest infection rate in the state; its northern neighbor, Ste. Genevieve, has the fifth-highest.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
These maps and charts show the spread of COVID-19 in Missouri and Illinois.
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