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'This is an extremely important weapon in the war' | St. Louis task force says vaccinations is a critical step in pandemic

An infectious disease specialist at Mercy Hospital South was the first to receive the vaccine

ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force held its Monday afternoon COVID-19 briefing as the first doses of the vaccine arrive in the area.

Dr. Alexander Garza - head of the task force - thanked those in the region who have played a critical role in helping make COVID-19 vaccinations a reality. 

"It's really been an incredible effort by the St. Louis area researchers, our pharmaceutical company employees, clinical trial volunteers, those involved in distribution and many others who have played a role in getting vaccinations done. All of us in the region, really all of these people, a debt of gratitude for what they've done to bring vaccinations not just to St. Louis but to the United States," Dr. Garza said.

"You're helping us see some light at the end of the tunnel during this really epic battle," he added.

"This is an extremely important weapon in the war. The beginning of vaccinations is really a critical step in winning this war over the virus," he said.

Dr. Garza reiterated that people should continue to stay home as much as possible, avoid traveling, wear a mask and stay socially distance when around other people. 

"We know that these things keep the virus from spreading as quickly and will keep Americans alive for next Christmas," Dr. Garza said.

Dr. Garza was asked when he thinks some things could return to normal. He said an estimate would probably be summer 2021. However, he added that the question is difficult to answer because it's going to be dependent upon how much vaccine there is. 

Click here to watch Monday's briefing 

Health care workers at Mercy are among the first in the St. Louis area to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

The hospital shared video of the first shipment arriving at the hospital Monday morning. 

An infectious disease specialist at Mercy Hospital South was the first to receive the vaccine. 

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 Dec. 14.  

  • New hospital admissions (data lagged two days) decreased from 109 yesterday to 85 today.
  • The seven-day moving average of hospital admissions (data lagged two days) decreased – from *118 to 116 today.
  • The seven-day moving average of hospitalizations increased - from 890 yesterday to 893 today.
  • Inpatient confirmed COVID positive hospitalizations increased – from 871 yesterday to 915 today.
  • Inpatient suspected COVID positive hospitalizations decreased – from 87 yesterday to 69 today.
  • The number of confirmed COVID positive patients in the ICUs decreased – from 194 yesterday to 188 today.
  • The number of confirmed COVID positive patients on ventilators increased – from 115 yesterday to 120 today.
  • The number of COVID deaths decreased – from 23 yesterday to 17 today.
  • The seven-day moving average of COVID deaths decreased – from 22 yesterday to 21 today.
  • Across the system hospitals, 65 COVID-19 patients were discharged to home yesterday, bringing the cumulative number of COVID-19 patients discharged to 12,565.  
  • Today, staffed bed hospital capacity is at 82%, an average across task force hospitals. The ICU’s are at 85% of their total staffed bed capacity.

RELATED: Video: Mercy unboxes first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines, employees to get shots Monday

RELATED: Here's when the first COVID-19 vaccines will arrive at St. Louis-area hospitals