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'Our hospitals are almost full' as virus spreads across St. Louis region

'Our hospitals are almost full' as virus spreads across St. Louis region

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ST. LOUIS — The average number of COVID-19 patients admitted to St. Louis-area hospitals each day reached a record high on Monday, and area officials warned residents that they had little time to avoid disaster.

The region has entered a stage of “accelerated growth” in cases and admissions, said Dr. Alex Garza, who leads The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force. Eventually, he said, there will be so much virus in the community that smaller precautions won’t have much impact on spread.

The region’s hospital officials are considering limiting elective procedures, as they did during the spring to free up capacity and supplies for virus patients.

“Our hospitals and our ICUs continue to fill with patients — with COVID patients and with regular patients,” said Garza. “I’ve said this multiple times over the past couple of weeks, but I think it bears repeating that we just can’t continue on this trend.”

COVID-19 cases have risen sharply in the Midwest for the past month. Hospital officials have warned that Missouri’s health care workers are tired, nearly eight months since the state’s first case was reported, and hospitals will be challenged to care for patients with COVID-19 and other ailments if the virus continues to spread at such a fast clip.

Garza reported 55 new admissions to task force hospitals on Monday, and a record seven-day average of 61. The task force data lags by two days, and includes patient numbers from BJC HealthCare, Mercy, SSM Health and St. Luke’s Hospital facilities in the metro area.

Throughout the spring, the region’s hospitalizations peaked on April 9 at a seven-day average of 59 new admissions.

Local health systems are operating at 80% to 95% capacity, and intensive care units, specifically, are even more limited, Garza said. Area health systems are operating at anywhere from 85% to around 96% of ICU capacity, Garza said.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said Monday that the area was on a “fast track to a crisis.”

“If we continue on this trajectory over the next couple of weeks, we’re going to be having some very difficult conversations,” he said.

‘Get serious about this’

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson said that contact tracing data is showing that in the city, COVID-19 is often spreading through small social gatherings among families, friends and neighbors.

“Our cases are just climbing and climbing and climbing,” Krewson said during a briefing on Monday. The weather has gotten colder, and some have grown tired after so many months of precautions.

“Please, get serious about this. Our hospitals are almost full,” Krewson said.

Krewson urged residents to keep their social gatherings limited. The city, she said, is going to keep the current restrictions in place for bars and restaurants, and is trying to avoid limiting hours and occupancy even further. Page said he would consider tightening restrictions if the surge continues to worsen.

Hospitalizations have also risen statewide in recent weeks. On Monday, the Department of Health and Senior Services reported a record seven-day average of 1,545 hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Missouri. The data lags three days, and not every hospital reports every day.

That is up from a seven-day average of 1,156 COVID-19 patients on Oct. 1.

Missouri reported 2,651 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, and a seven-day average of 2,173. The state’s total case count reached 188,186, and there were five more deaths reported over the last 24 hours.

Illinois reported 6,222 new confirmed COVID-19 cases Monday, reaching a total of 423,502, and 20 more deaths. The state also reported 3,371 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, the highest number since May 28.

At a news conference Monday, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said that every region in the state is headed in the wrong direction. He urged residents to wear masks, and follow social distancing precautions.

Jeremy Kohler of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.

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