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National Guard’s help sought in St. Louis County

The top elected official in Missouri’s largest county is seeking help from the Missouri National Guard in preparation for an expected surge in coronavirus-related hospitalizations.

Democratic St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said in a statement Wednesday that the National Guard “can play a critical role” in transporting patients and supplies, which would free up health care workers to focus on treating people.

Leaders of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, made up of the region’s largest hospitals, said that the peak of the pandemic in the St. Louis area is expected to occur in two to three weeks.

As of Tuesday, 586 people in the region were hospitalized for COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, or for symptoms indicating possible infection. Of those, 239 were in intensive care and 186 were on ventilators.

The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. The vast majority of people recover.

“As we move into what is expected to be the surge of this virus, we need help transporting patients and equipment and additional security at our hospitals, county warehouse and our North County Recreation Center, which we have converted into a shelter for our homeless population to reduce their level of exposure,” Page wrote in a letter to Republican Gov. Mike Parson on Tuesday. “We also need med techs to augment our staff at triage and testing sites.”

In neighboring St. Charles County, a new outbreak was reported at a psychiatric hospital.

St. Charles County officials say 20 staff members and three patients at CenterPointe Hospital have tested positive since March 28. CenterPointe Medical Director Azfar Malik said in a statement that admissions were halted March 29 but will resume after thorough cleaning and disinfecting.

Fifty-three people have died in Missouri from COVID-19 and 3,037 cases have been confirmed, according to statistics on the state health department website, but the actual number of deaths in Missouri may be significantly higher.

A database operated by Johns Hopkins University shows 86 deaths as of Wednesday morning. The discrepancy could be because the university updates its data more often, and Missouri just recently changed its policy to require that coronavirus deaths be reported within 24 hours.

Another alarming rise in confirmed cases was reported at a nursing home. Franklin County Presiding Commissioner Tim Brinker cited 27 confirmed cases and three deaths at Grandview Healthcare in Washington, Missouri, about 50 miles southwest of St. Louis.

Nursing homes have been severely impacted by the virus. In Missouri, five residents have died at Morningside East Assisted Living Center in Springfield, and five others have died at Frontier Health & Rehabilitation in St. Charles, where 42 residents and eight workers have tested positive since the outbreak was first reported March 23.

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