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Task force: St. Louis area COVID-19 hospitalizations, vaccinations improving

The task force's analytics team estimated the St. Louis area could reach 75% vaccination by July if the supply rate remains the same

ST. LOUIS — In his weekly briefing, the leader of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force said the region is making significant progress in the fight against COVID-19 in both prevention and vaccination.

Dr. Alex Garza, the incident commander of the task force, said the analytic team estimated 75% of people in the St. Louis area could have at least one dose of the vaccine by July if current supply rates continue. That estimate includes the Illinois counties in the St. Louis area, which Dr. Garza said have been getting vaccinated at a faster pace. He said estimates projected Missouri's Region C would reach 75% in late August at the current rate.

"These, of course, are not exact numbers, these are approximations and so we know that they are going to change," Dr. Garza said Wednesday, "but we've been asked this question a couple of times by different people and so we thought we would at least provide some rationale on why we're thinking the way we are."

Dr. Garza reiterated why the task force hospitals would continue to focus on vaccinating the Phase 1B-Tier 2 population even after the state advances to Phase 1B-Tier 3 on March 15. Dr. Garza said people in Tier 2 make up more than 70% of the COVID-19 patients in a sample taken from one of their hospitals.

"It isn't that the people in Tier 3, or even the people in Phase 2 or Phase 3, aren't worthy of receiving a vaccine or that we don't want to vaccinate them," Dr. Garza said, "but when we look at the data and we say, 'Who is most at risk for a poor outcome or death from COVID?' It is clearly this population."

When it comes to which vaccine people should get, Dr. Garza said the answer is simple: the one you can get. He said comparing the vaccines based on efficacy rates is not as simple as picking which one has a higher efficacy rate.

"The thing to keep in mind with the efficacy numbers is that they are measuring different things in the different trials," Dr. Garza said.

He said the numbers aren't necessarily apples-to-apples because they were taken at different points in the trials and at different points in the pandemic. He said researchers operating the trials also did not use the same calculation to determine the efficacy. 

"It's not like comparing batting averages," Dr. Garza said.

RELATED: Why doctors aren't focused on Johnson & Johnson's lower vaccine efficacy

He said all three vaccines provide very good protection against COVID-19 and are particularly good at preventing severe disease and death. 

"When you take all that into consideration, there really is no difference between all three of those vaccines," Dr. Garza said.

In addition to progress on vaccines, the task force also reported improving hospitalization numbers across the board. 

RELATED: St. Louis area COVID-19 hospital admissions lowest since October

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 3.  

  • New hospital admissions (data lagged two days) decreased from 30 yesterday to 23 today.
  • The seven-day moving average of hospital admissions (data lagged two days) decreased – from 39 yesterday to 36 today.
  • The seven-day moving average of hospitalizations decreased – from 291 yesterday to 276 today.
  • Inpatient confirmed COVID positive hospitalizations decreased - from 266 yesterday to 234 today.
  • Inpatient suspected COVID positive hospitalizations decreased – from 38 yesterday to 26 today.
  • The number of confirmed COVID positive patients in the ICUs decreased – from 65 yesterday to 64 today.
  • The number of confirmed COVID positive patients on ventilators remained the same at 46 today.
  • The number of COVID deaths increased – from 1 yesterday to 2 today.
  • The seven-day moving average of COVID decreased – from 5 yesterday to 4 today.
  • Across the system hospitals, 44 COVID-19 patients were discharged to home yesterday, bringing the cumulative number of COVID-19 patients discharged to 19,520.
  • Today, staffed bed hospital capacity is at 84%, an average across our task force hospitals. The ICU’s are at 86% of their total staffed bed capacity.