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Missouri cases, hospitalizations, unemployment claims rise

The death toll from the coronavirus in Missouri rose dramatically Friday when the state health department announced 136 additional deaths.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services also reported 2,008 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, and cited data showing that hospitalizations remain at near-record levels.

Health department spokeswoman Lisa Cox said all of the deaths reported Friday actually occurred before October. The state relies on reporting from local health departments, which sometimes report their deaths in batches.

Cox said 125 of the newly reported deaths happened in September, 10 were in August and one in July.

Missouri has reported 139,164 confirmed cases and 2,395 deaths from the coronavirus since the onset of the pandemic.

Data from the state shows that 1,303 people in Missouri were hospitalized as of Thursday, the second-most for any single day. The record of 1,352 hospitalizations was Wednesday. The rise in hospitalizations is occurring largely in rural areas.

One of the largest hospitals in southwestern Missouri has seen a big rise in hospitalizations. CoxHealth spokeswoman Kaitlyn McConnell said the Springfield hospital on Thursday was treating a record 93 COVID-19 patients.

“Because this surge came to the Midwest later than other parts of the country, we were able to prepare by aggressively gathering PPE and expanding our facilities, and are currently managing through this crisis,” McConnell said in an email. “However, we are distressed by the rising number of cases and what they mean in our community. We ask our community, and those across the country, to continue to take preventative measures against the spread of this virus.”

Missouri Hospital Association spokesman David Dillon said the nearly monthlong trend of spiking hospitalizations is troubling, and he noted that many people getting care in regional hubs like Springfield are from smaller towns around those hubs.

“This is clearly moving through the communities, especially rural communities, and they have less capacity to treat it locally,” Dillon said.

State health department spokeswoman Lisa Cox said that while hospitalizations are up, the state continues to have a sufficient supply of ventilators and available intensive care unit space.

Also Thursday, the state labor department reported initial unemployment claims rose last week after falling steadily in the previous three weeks. The department said 8,797 Missourians applied for unemployment assistance, up more than 1,400 from the week before.

The number of claims had been dropping since reaching 10,857 for the week ending Sept. 5. The state’s unemployment rate remains at 7%, below the national average of 8.4%.

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