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St. Louis County begins vaccinations. Missouri, Illinois again report uptick in virus cases

St. Louis County begins vaccinations. Missouri, Illinois again report uptick in virus cases

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Staff receive COVID-19 vaccinations at  SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital

Nurse anesthetist Mary Lou Ponder, left, registered nurse Rachelle Kirschner, center, and nurse anesthetist Lindsey Bright, right, wait in line to receive a COVID-19 vaccine at SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital in St. Louis on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. Photo by Cheyenne Boone, cboone@post-dispatch.com

ST. LOUIS — St. Louis County began administering its first vaccinations to health department workers on Friday, and Missouri and Illinois again reported a rise in new COVID-19 cases.

The county health department received 975 doses on Tuesday of the vaccine manufactured by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech, and it began administering them Friday morning. The department will inoculate 275 employees who fall under the state’s first phase of vaccinations, which includes health care workers and nursing homes, and next week will begin offering them to patient-facing health care workers across the county.

The county has not received confirmation of when the next shipment will arrive, or the number of doses it will contain, department spokesman Christopher Ave said Friday. The department had vaccinated 170 people as of that afternoon.

Health care workers can request additional information via email, and those who fall under the Phase 1A category will be added to a list for vaccinations.

Hospitals were the first in the area to begin vaccinations, almost four weeks ago. St. Charles County received its first vaccine shipment shortly thereafter, and began vaccinating in long-term care facilities at the end of December.

In Missouri, 124,721 people have received first doses of COVID-19 vaccine so far, or about 2% of the population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Illinois, 234,051 have received the first dose, or about 1.8% of the population.

Dr. Alex Garza, who leads the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, said during a briefing Friday that 2% is a “far cry” from the 70% threshold that many experts believe is necessary to achieve herd immunity.

“Certainly it’s not where we would like it to be,” Garza said.

He said the rollout of vaccines has been limited by logistical factors and the overall amount of vaccine arriving in the state.

“The bottom line is, we would like it to be higher,” Garza said.

St. Louis city is expecting vaccine doses to arrive next week or the following week, said Jacob Long, director of communications for the mayor’s office. The number of doses has not been confirmed.

Meanwhile, Missouri on Friday reported an uptick in coronavirus infections. The state added 4,332 cases, up from 3,983 the day before, and 30 deaths due to the virus.

Missouri’s seven-day average of new cases hit a peak of 4,723 on Nov. 20, and then fell as low as 2,182 on Dec. 30. On Friday the seven-day average of new cases was 2,780, according to a Post-Dispatch analysis.

Illinois reported 9,277 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, up from 8,757 the day before, and 126 more deaths due to the virus.

The state’s seven-day average of daily new cases has fallen from a peak of 12,722 on Nov. 12 to as low as 5,243 on Dec. 29, but has risen since then. The average was 6,676 on Friday.

Local hospitals reported 97 new COVID-19 patients, up from 86 the day before, according to the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force.

There were a total of 767 virus patients across area BJC HealthCare, Mercy, SSM Health and St. Luke’s Hospital facilities in the area.

Hospitals here are operating at 85% of hospital bed capacity, and 88% of intensive care unit bed capacity.

Health care workers can request information about vaccinations from the St. Louis County Department of Public Health by emailing: dphcovidvaccine@stlouisco.com.

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