A leading coronavirus expert in St. Louis is warning that hospital workers are “overworked and demoralized” after months of battling the coronavirus, and the worst may be yet to come.
Dr. Alex Garza of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force said hospitalizations are getting higher and intensive care unit beds are filling up at a time when the flu season is about to create even more strain on the health care system.
The St. Louis region is actually in better shape than the rest of the state, according to data released Tuesday on the state health department’s COVID-19 dashboard. Hospitalizations are at or near record levels in virtually every region except St. Louis, which was hit hardest in the spring. But, according to Garza, even St. Louis is seeing an uptick.
“Our cases, our hospitalizations, and our admissions numbers all continue at a dangerous ascent, into territory we haven’t seen since early on in the pandemic,” Garza said at a briefing Monday. “Unfortunately, we have erased every bit of progress that we’ve made this summer and fall.”
The state on Tuesday reported another 1,524 confirmed cases, bringing the total since the onset of the pandemic to 159,625. The state also reported 25 more deaths. All told, 2,615 people in Missouri have died from COVID-19. Missouri ranks eighth nationally for the most new cases over the past week, and seventh for deaths. The positivity rate of 21.1% for the past seven days is four times higher than the 5% benchmark the state seeks to achieve.
In Springfield, CoxHealth constructed a temporary building on the parking lot of Cox Medical Center South to serve the expected overflow of COVID-19 and flu patients.
The state dashboard showed that ICU capacity statewide was down to 29%, with 476 of Missouri’s 1,439 COVID-19 patients receiving intensive care. The data also shows that 788 ventilators are in use, a figure that includes non-COVID-19 patients.
Garza said the renewed onslaught is taking a toll.
“Our staff are exhausted, they’re over-worked and they’re demoralized, which decreases the quality of care that everyone receives, not just COVID patients,” he said.
Two small towns announced new mask orders. The facial covering requirements in Nixa and Ozark both begin Wednesday. Ozark city leaders cited the rise in confirmed COVID-19 cases in Christian County and the increasing number of hospitalizations, KYKY-TV reported.
Rick Groves, the assistant police chief in the small Missouri Bootheel town of Kennett, died Friday, a month after contracting COVID-19 “while serving in his capacity as a law enforcement officer,” according to a news release from Gov. Mike Parson’s office.
Parson ordered U.S. and Missouri flags at government buildings in Dunklin County to fly at half-staff Tuesday in honor of Groves, who was with the Kennett department for 35 years.