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Lincoln, Warren counties are Missouri's latest COVID hotspots

In the last week, Lincoln County rose from 186 cases to 247. Warren County went from 135 COVID-19 cases to 149, the state health department said

ST. LOUIS — Missouri’s latest COVID-19 hotspots are in two St. Louis area counties where vaccination rates are low and new cases are on the rise.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services on Wednesday issued a COVID-19 Hotspot Advisory for Lincoln and Warren counties, along with the immediate surrounding area, citing an increase in virus cases.

In the last week, Lincoln County rose from 186 cases to 247. Warren County went from 135 COVID-19 cases to 149, the health department said.

Officials added that the increase in cases is putting a strain on the health care system both in those counties and beyond.

“As a result, several hospitals in the region are at or near capacity including those in the St. Louis Region where many individuals from this area seek care,” the hotspot advisory states.

Besides cases increasing, vaccination rates in the two counties remain below the statewide and national averages.

Percent of residents initiating vaccination and fully vaccinated:

  • United States: 62.7% and 53.4%
  • Missouri: 52.4% and 45.9%
  • Lincoln County: 34.2% and 30.3%
  • Warren County: 38.5% and 34.6%

*These numbers are as of Wednesday afternoon

Credit: KSDK
This graphic shows how Missouri counties in the St. Louis area compare when it comes to fully vaccinated residents as of Sept. 8.

This is the 16th hotspot advisory released by the state health department since July 7. The advisories began when the faster-spreading delta variant started taking hold of the state. The advisory for Lincoln and Warren counties states the delta variant also is likely behind the increase seen there right now.

“Vaccination continues to be our best tool to move past this pandemic,” the advisory states.

READ ALSO: Here's how many COVID cases and quarantines were reported the first week of school in St. Louis County

A school district in Lincoln County took action Wednesday night following an increase in cases within the school community.

The Elsberry R-II Board of Education voted to start a mask mandate for all students K-12 and staff while at school and on buses. The mandate begins Tuesday, Sept. 14. School board members also voted to reduce the distance for becoming a close contact from 6 feet to 3 feet.

“By implementing a mask mandate for all students and staff we will greatly be able to reduce the number of students who are quarantined and we will no longer quarantine an entire elementary class for a positive case within that class,” the school district shared online Thursday.

The school district currently has 10 positive COVID-19 cases and more than 200 students in quarantine or excluded from school.

“The Board believes that this change will allow us to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 while also having as many students attending in-person learning as possible,” the school district wrote.

The Elsberry school board will review the policy monthly at regular meetings.

The Lincoln County Health Department applauded the school district’s decisions.

Also in Lincoln County, the Wentzville School District School Board will meet Thursday night for what’s being called an “emergency discussion” about the rise in COVID-19 cases they’re seeing at elementary schools. The virtual meeting will go over ways to help the locations experiencing high numbers. The school district currently has a mask-optional policy.