KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Gov. Mike Parson has rescinded the COVID-19 related state of emergency that was put in place on March 13, 2020, and replaced it with a narrower state of emergency that focuses on the health care system.
Parson, a Republican, said in a statement Friday that the changes acknowledge the progress the state has made when it comes to the pandemic, particularly now that vaccines are available. But he continued regulatory and other procedures that will allow the still-struggling health care system to respond to increased caseloads.
In addition to a rising number of cases, health care workers blame the severity of the illnesses, staffing shortages and the refusal of so many to get vaccinated for the challenges hospitals are now facing. Kansas City-area hospitals have had to transfer patients, both with and without COVID-19, as far away as Chicago and Oklahoma City.
“It just breaks my heart that we’re at this point,” said Allison Edwards, a doctor and the owner of a small direct primary care clinic in midtown Kansas City. “I don’t even know how to begin to ration care. How do you start to make these decisions of where to put your priorities when business as usual can’t happen?”
St. Louis-area hospitals have for the past two weeks had to postpone some elective procedures in order to be able to handle emergencies as COVID-19 patient numbers climb in the region.
According to data released Friday by the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, 88% of staffed hospital beds and 80% of intensive care beds were in use.
The task force has also reported having to send at least one patient out of the region to receive treatment because not enough advanced life support machines were available.
Intensive care units are nearly full across the Kansas City area, creating challenges for hospitals battling to keep up with the high number of COVID-19 patients.
The Kansas City Star reported that 215 ICU beds in the region were in use last week — the most since the onset of the pandemic — and that number has grown almost every day since. As of Wednesday, 224 people were hospitalized in ICUs, according to hospital data tracked by the Mid-America Regional Council, a regional planning agency.
The data includes hospitals in Jackson and Clay counties in Missouri and Wyandotte and Johnson counties in Kansas.
St. Louis-area hospitals on Friday reported 550 patients were hospitalized with suspected and confirmed COVID-19, hovering around levels not seen since late January.
The region’s intensive care units held 129 COVID-19 patients, 95 who were on ventilators. An average of nine patients are dying daily in the 22 hospitals that make up the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force.
Statewide as of Sunday morning, Missouri’s COVID-19 dashboard showed 694 patients in intensive care with COVID-19 — the highest yet in the pandemic. The winter surge saw a peak of 685 in the ICU on Dec. 23.
A total of 2,328 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 across Missouri after reaching levels as low as 650 just three months ago.
The state dashboard on Sunday cited 2,957 newly confirmed cases since Friday and 18 additional deaths. Since the pandemic began, Missouri has reported 627,196 confirmed cases, 126,858 probable cases and 10,453 deaths. Those totals are lower than national tracking sites, such as Johns Hopkins and The New York Times, which record local data faster than the state does.
After twice voting down a countywide mask mandate, the St. Louis County Council on Friday adopted a resolution supporting a July 26 mask order by Democratic County Executive Sam Page and acting Public Health Director Faisal Khan.
The council’s four Democrats supported the measure; the three Republicans abstained, arguing the resolution was nonbinding. They said they wouldn’t support a mask mandate if it were legally binding.
Page’s initial mask mandate was the subject of a lawsuit filed by Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt. A judge last week enjoined the county from enforcing the order because it hadn’t received council approval.
Late Friday, the county asked the judge in the case to lift her order, citing the council’s action.
On Monday, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen will meet to consider extending the city’s mask order.
Michele Munz of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.