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Officials warn of COVID-19 uptick in St. Louis and Illinois. But mass vaccination clinics aren't filling

Officials warn of COVID-19 uptick in St. Louis and Illinois. But mass vaccination clinics aren't filling

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Missouri National Guard staffs first state vaccine clinic in Poplar Bluff

Health workers draw vaccines during Missouri's first mass COVID-19 vaccination event at a closed water park in Poplar Bluff on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. Photo by Robert Cohen, rcohen@post-dispatch.com

COLLINSVILLE — Officials are warning of a resurgence in coronavirus cases in St. Louis and Illinois, even as mass vaccination clinics on both sides of the river have struggled to fill slots.

The St. Louis health department on Monday reported that the city has seen an increase over the past two weeks in new COVID-19 cases, with the seven-day average increasing to 28, from 20, and the positivity rate — or percentage of tests that came back positive — rising to 5.1%, from 4%.

Illinois also continued to report a slow, steady rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Illinois’ seven-day average of new daily cases rose to 3,353 on Monday, after falling as low as 1,511 on March 13. And total hospitalizations for the coronavirus have nearly doubled, to almost 2,000, over the same time period.

Dr. Fredrick Echols, the city’s acting health director, said the rise may be related to spring break and Easter holiday gatherings.

At the same time, mass vaccinations at The Dome at America’s Center in downtown St. Louis, at the Belle-Clair Fairgrounds in St. Clair County, and at the Gateway Convention Center in Collinsville, haven’t been able to use all the doses they’ve been allotted. Both states opened vaccinations to all residents 16 and over: Missouri on Friday; Illinois on Monday.

Amy Yeager, public information officer for the Madison County Health Department, said the county’s mass vaccination site in Collinsville has seen lower appointment numbers over the past week — Madison and St. Clair counties have opened for all residents, 16 and older, since late last month — and the department suspects that some residents don’t realize they are eligible.

“For a long time, people were told they weren’t going to be able to get theirs till the summer,” Yeager said. “They didn’t expect to be eligible so soon.”

And while earlier phases of the vaccine rollout emphasized seniors, younger age groups likely have more people in work and school, who might have more difficulty taking time to come to a vaccine site, Yeager said.

At the Collinsville site, the first and last time slots of the day and the midday appointments are often filled quickly, suggesting that residents are trying to get vaccinated before or after work, or during a lunch break, Yeager said. The county is going to try slightly earlier hours on Thursday and Friday, and later hours next week on Monday and Tuesday, to see if it helps.

“I just don’t think a lot of people know they can get the vaccine,” Yeager said. “We don’t think this is vaccine hesitation at all, yet.”

People who were vaccinated there Monday afternoon reported that they spent about 30 minutes inside the site, including the required 15-minute observation period.

Jon Podner, 20, of Godfrey, was vaccinated on Monday in Collinsville, and said he was glad that the process went much faster than he expected. “If there was a line, that would be a good thing, too,” he added.

St. Clair County’s mass vaccination site has also seen a decline in appointment numbers recently, county board chairman Mark Kern said Monday.

The mass vaccination site at the Belle-Clair Fairgrounds has been administering, on average, about 1,700 doses per day. Kern said it could probably process 2,500 per day with the current staffing levels, and even more with additional staff.

In Illinois, nearly 2.9 million people have been fully vaccinated, or 22.7% of the population. In Missouri nearly 1.3 million have been fully vaccinated, or 20.5% of the population.

Missouri’s statewide seven-day average of new confirmed cases, meanwhile, has fluctuated between 335 and 375 for the past three weeks, and was 351 on Monday, according to a Post-Dispatch analysis. The state reported 198 new confirmed cases and 134 new probable cases of the virus.

St. Louis County announced that, starting Tuesday, residents no longer have to wait for the health department to contact them about making a vaccination appointment. Instead, they will be able to make appointments directly from the county health department website.

Jefferson County is holding three vaccine clinics this week at its location in Festus. The clinics will accept walk-ins, but people can schedule appointments in advance by visiting the Jefferson County Health Department website or calling their registration line during business hours at 636-789-8941.

• Tuesday, 9 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., Moderna vaccine

• Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., Moderna vaccine

CareSTL Health is hosting a vaccination clinic on Wednesday. It also has events on April 20 and May 15. The clinics will offer the vaccine manufactured by Moderna. Walk-ins will be accepted, but residents are encouraged to make an appointment in advance by registering through the state vaccine website and entering the code for the event.

• Wednesday at Northwest Law Academy, located at 5140 Riverview Boulevard. The event will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event code is 8568. Second doses will be available on May 12 at the same location.

• April 20 at LifeWise STL, located at 1321 South 11th Street. The event will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event code is 35367. Second doses will be available on May 18 at the same location.

• May 15 at Spirit Church, located at 915 Northwest Plaza. The event will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event code is 53195. Second doses will be available on June 12 at the same location.

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