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There are now fewer COVID-19 patients in St. Louis area hospitals than any point since July

Numbers may be down, but they're still seeing the effects of COVID. Long haulers are currently taking up some beds.

ST. LOUIS — This week, COVID-19 hospitalization numbers reached the lowest point in our area since the end of June.

According to the St. Louis Pandemic Task Force, hospitalizations on Tuesday were at 148, down from 154 Monday. This is the lowest since June 30, 2020.

Admissions on Monday were 16, down from 25 on Sunday, and the lowest since July 6.

For Florissant resident, Marcia Key, she knows firsthand how powerful it is that hospitalization numbers in the St. Louis area are down.

This past year, she lost 27 friends to COVID-19 and she almost lost her life.

"The probability of me living was pretty much zero to one percent," she said. 

Last March, Key was on a ventilator and in a coma. Over a year later, she's now fully vaccinated.

Dr. William Powderly at Washington University is co-director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Washington University School of Medicine.

He believes these numbers are dropping for several reasons. 

He said the highest risk of hospitalizations are among older people.

"We've had pretty good success at getting them vaccinated," he said.

Another reason is due to the warmer weather. 

"When you get to warmer weather, the virus has less chance to interact with people. Coming into this time of year, respiratory viruses go down," Dr. Powderly said. 

Last but not least, the vaccines are working and they're putting up a good fight against the variants.

"The variants are more infectious. The vaccines work against them, but if you're not vaccinated, you're more likely to get infected," he said. 

Dr. Aamina Akhtar, Chief Medical Officer at Mercy Hospital South, tells 5 On Your Side, hearing this news gives them a chance to catch their breath.

But they still have their guard up. 

"Even though we take the moment and catch our breath, we still want to be vigilant. Just because the numbers are lowered, doesn’t mean they can’t re-surge again," she said. "We do have variants in community, we also know a significant amount of our community are not vaccinated."

Right now, only 33% of Missourians are fully inoculated, which means people can still get sick and hospitalized.

With measures relaxing, Dr. Muhammad Malik at SSM Health St. Joseph Hospital Lake St. Louis said there could be more transmission.

Possible exposure could lead to more patients.

"They're still coming in, a good 99% are those did not get vaccinated," Dr. Malik said.

Dr. Malik added that numbers may be down, but they're still seeing the effects of COVID.

Long haulers are taking over some beds currently.

"In our hospital census today, every hospital has two to three long haulers, who have been here longer than seven to 10 days and they weren’t vaccinated," Dr. Malik said.

On average, they are there for 15 to 20 days. 

Key still feels the damage on her heart and lungs.

Credit: Marcia Key

But the virus has also left behind a new perspective: gratitude and a message for others.

"Please don’t act like it doesn’t exist because it still does exist, you got to keep being careful," Key said.

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