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Pace of new virus cases in Missouri and Illinois levels; first vaccinations expected within days

Pace of new virus cases in Missouri and Illinois levels; first vaccinations expected within days

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ST. LOUIS — As Missouri edges closer to the first distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine, the state is still reporting more virus cases each day than at any time during the spring or summer.

Statewide, hospitalizations and new cases were slightly lower on Saturday than the day before, but generally continued on the high plateau that the state has seen in recent weeks.

Missouri reported 3,743 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, down from 3,900 the day before but still well above the seven-day average of 3,418, according to a Post-Dispatch analysis. The state also reported 22 more COVID-19 deaths, bringing the total to 4,503 virus fatalities since the beginning of the pandemic.

There were 2,710 hospitalized COVID-19 patients statewide, down from 2,795 the day before. Missouri hospitalization data lags three days, and not every hospital reports every day.

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 8,737 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, continuing the state’s downward trend in new infections over the past few weeks. The seven-day average of new cases has fallen to 8,816, from a peak of 12,722 on Nov. 12.

Illinois reported 127 more deaths due to the virus.

Locally, hospitalizations for the virus have plateaued at an elevated level over the past couple of weeks, with hospitals on average reporting more than double the number of total coronavirus patients compared with early October. On Saturday, the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force reported 118 new COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals in the area, down from 134 the day before.

Hospitals here are operating at 79% of staffed bed capacity, and 89% of staffed intensive care unit capacity.

On Friday night, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer, Inc. The move allows for distribution of the vaccine for individuals 16 years and older.

The vaccines will go first to health care workers and long-term care facility residents and staff.

Pfizer reported that the vaccine was 95% effective in preventing the disease.

The vaccine requires two doses, three weeks apart.

Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Director Dr. Randall Williams told reporters on Friday before the FDA’s announcement that he believed the first COVID-19 vaccinations in the state will begin on Thursday. That was based on the assumption that the FDA would issue the emergency use authorization on Sunday.

It was unclear whether the early arrival of the FDA decision would speed up the vaccine’s appearance in Missouri. A spokeswoman for BJC HealthCare said in an email Saturday that the health system’s time frame for vaccinations had not changed.

And Department of Health and Senior Services spokeswoman Lisa Cox said that the situation is fluid, and the first vaccines will likely arrive in the state sooner than Thursday.

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