ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force marked one year of COVID-19 briefings Wednesday.
Dr. Alex Garza, the task force commander, said the region has come a long way since holding the first briefing in the gym of St. Louis University High School, but there is still work to be done.
Dr. Garza said the identification of another COVID-19 variant in the state — the B.1.351 variant, which was originally identified in South Africa — highlights the need for more widespread vaccination.
"We know that the three available vaccines provide good protection against the variants, especially against severe illness and death," Dr. Garza said. "So the confirmation of these variants within our region underscore the need to vaccinate the community as quickly as we can and do everything we can to continue to decrease the spread of the current coronavirus."
Dr. Garza said it's easier than ever to sign up for a vaccine, with mass vaccination events like the one at The Dome and others in St. Louis and St. Charles counties. You can sign up for all the events through the Missouri vaccine navigator website.
"If you've been waiting to sign up and make an appointment, now is the time to do so," Dr. Garza said. "And if you can, help your family and friends, particularly those that don't have access to the internet or might not have the skills to navigate websites."
The number of cases in the community and in area hospitals has plateaued in recent weeks, and Dr. Garza said that has changed the task force's projections for the next few months. With hospitalizations and cases remaining about the same for the last few weeks, Dr. Garza said their projections predict the pandemic hanging around longer than previously predicted.
Dr. Garza said the confirmation of new variants paired with the emergence of vaccinations means now is not the time to loosen restrictions. He said things like mask-wearing and social distancing can now prevent someone from getting the coronavirus at all, provided they go get vaccinated as well.
"These are cases that could largely be prevented if we are continuing to do mitigation strategies and everybody getting vaccinated as quickly as they can," he said.
On Monday, the task force reported no new deaths for the first time since Oct. 7. On Tuesday, nearly all of the numbers tracked by the task force increased. That trend continued Wednesday.
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 April 7.
- New hospital admissions (data lagged two days) increased – from 39 yesterday to 48 today.
- The seven-day moving average of hospital admissions (data lagged two days) increased – from 34 yesterday to 37 today.
- The seven-day moving average of hospitalizations increased – from 209 yesterday to 213 today.
- Inpatient confirmed COVID positive hospitalizations increased – from 225 yesterday to 240 today.
- Inpatient suspected COVID positive hospitalizations increased – from 35 yesterday to 39 today.
- The number of confirmed COVID positive patients in the ICUs remained the same at 49 today.
- The number of confirmed COVID positive patients on ventilators increased – from 27 yesterday to 34 today.
- The number of COVID deaths increased – from 2 yesterday to 4 today.
- The seven-day moving average of COVID deaths decreased – from 4 yesterday to 3 today.
- Across the system hospitals, 48 patients have been discharged, bringing the cumulative number of COVID-19 patients discharged to 20,770.
- On Wednesday, staffed bed hospital capacity is at 85%, an average across our task force hospitals. The ICUs are at 82% of their total staffed bed capacity.