ST. LOUIS — Dr. Alex Garza said the St. Louis area is continuing to make "really good progress" in the battle against the coronavirus as hospitalizations and cases continue to decline.
On Monday, the task force said the number of ICU beds occupied by confirmed and suspected COVID-19 patients dipped below 10% for the first time in months. Below 10% is what the task force considers the "green zone". The number of hospital beds returned to the green zone earlier this year and was at 5.4% on Monday.
"Without a doubt, these are some of the best numbers we've seen in quite some time, since, really, early last fall," Dr. Garza said at the task force's Monday afternoon briefing. "But it's important to recognize that we can't let our guard down now. We know how quickly this virus can spread."
The briefing was the first look at COVID-19 data for St. Louis area hospitals since Friday afternoon, and those numbers improved nearly across the board. The task force recently changed its schedule to providing data updates Monday through Friday.
On Monday, the task force reported a seven-day hospitalization average of 238, the lowest since July 22. On Thursday, the seven-day average for admissions was 32, the lowest since Sept. 22. The admissions average increased slightly over the weekend but decreased to 32 again Monday.
Although hospitalizations and admissions have trended down, the seven-day average for deaths has remained about the same for the last few weeks.
Dr. Garza said he was encouraged by changes to Missouri's vaccination plan that will distribute vaccine based on the number of people in the eligible tiers rather than by the total population of a given area. He said he hopes the change will narrow the gap between urban areas that have lagged behind.
Starting next Monday, another tier will be eligible for the vaccine in Missouri, but Dr. Garza again said the task force hospitals will remain focused on older populations who are at higher risk of developing serious disease or dying. He reiterated statistics from last week that showed people currently eligible for the vaccine make up more than 70% of the COVID-19 patients in a sample taken from one of their hospitals.
He said the St. Louis area will have a consistent number of vaccine doses for the rest of the month, but that number could increase if the state brings National Guard vaccine events to the area. He said the region saw a boost from the first wave of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but they aren't expecting another shipment of J&J vaccines for a few weeks.
Dr. Garza started the briefing by going over the CDC's new guidance for people who are fully vaccinated. He said with more people becoming vaccinated, the guidance will be top of mind in the coming months. Although rules for group gatherings have changed for those with the vaccine, some things have not.
"The rules still stay the same when you are out in public," Dr. Garza said, "so even if you are fully vaccinated, you should still continue to wear a mask and practice social distancing."
The following data are the combined figures from the four major health systems (BJC HealthCare, Mercy, SSM Health, St. Luke’s Hospital) that are part of the task force, for March 8.
- New hospital admissions (data lagged two days) decreased - from 32 yesterday to 24 today. Saturday, we are reporting 44 admissions.
- The seven-day moving average of hospital admissions (data lagged two days) decreased – from 34 yesterday to 32 today. Saturday, the seven-day average was 35.
- The seven-day moving average of hospitalizations decreased – from 247 yesterday to 238 today. Saturday, the seven-day average was 254.
- Inpatient confirmed COVID positive hospitalizations decreased - from 226 yesterday to 224 today. Saturday, we are reporting 238 hospitalizations.
- Inpatient suspected COVID positive hospitalizations increased – from 32 yesterday to 39 today.
- The number of confirmed COVID positive patients in the ICUs increased – from 49 yesterday to 54 today.
- The number of confirmed COVID positive patients on ventilators decreased – from 38 yesterday to 35 today.
- The number of COVID deaths decreased – from 8 yesterday to 6 today. We are reporting 1 death from COVID on Saturday.
- The seven-day moving average of COVID remained the same at 4 today.
- Across the system hospitals, 31 COVID-19 patients were discharged to home yesterday, bringing the cumulative number of COVID-19 patients discharged to 19,693.
- Today, staffed bed hospital capacity is at 76%, an average across our task force hospitals. The ICU’s are at 75% of their total staffed bed capacity.