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COVID-19 task force leader on Missouri weekend cases: 'It's important to understand what that number represents'

Dr. Alex Garza said it is important to keep an eye on the case count, but people should also focus on what happens to hospital data as a result of the increase

ST. LOUIS — Dr. Alex Garza with the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force said the increases in cases in the state over the last two days are something to keep an eye on, but they are not a cause for concern in the St. Louis area as of now.

Monday’s briefing comes after the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services reported a record number of new COVID-19 cases in the state for the second day in a row Sunday.

"When you're taking a look at that testing data, you really have to dive into what is causing this surge in cases and are we going to see it result in an increase in hospitalizations and all these other things," Dr. Garza said. "So, it's important to keep an eye on that case count, but it's also important to understand what that number represents."

RELATED: Missouri health department reports record number of new COVID-19 cases for 2nd day in a row

On Sunday, the department reported 18,003 total cases, a single-day increase of 413. It was the first time the department has reported a single-day increase of more than 400 cases. The previous high was set a day earlier when the state reported 389 new cases. Monday, the state reported 140 new cases.

Many of the new cases Sunday came from the southwest corner of the state. McDonald County reported an increase of 196 cases and Newton County reported an increase of 88 cases.

Dr. Garza said healthcare providers with facilities in that area said some of the new cases came from an increase in testing at a meat processing plant in northern Arkansas.

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"Some of this is a result of that, but also, it's because the virus is in the rural community now," Dr. Garza said. "Again, it's a population that wasn't affected early on, it was more concentrated in the urban areas, and so that spread is increasing out in the rural areas."

Dr. Garza said the increase is concerning for the rural health care providers, but it will also depends on the overall health of the people who tested positive.

"It depends upon that population that's infected as well," he said. "So young, otherwise healthy people who aren't going to put a huge demand on health care resources, you know, it's not as concerning to the health care system, but if it does affect the older population or people with chronic medical conditions who are going to require advanced level of care, ICU level care, then that can quickly overwhelm rural facilities."

When asked if the weekend increases should affect decision making in the St. Louis area, Dr. Garza said leaders should keep an eye on what comes from the increase in cases.

"I would say if this case number was driven by increased transmission here in the St. Louis metropolitan area, and if we saw that it was impacting elderly or people with more chronic conditions, and we felt that this is going to be impacting the health care sector, then that's a different policy question than if it's young, otherwise healthy people."

Despite the increase in new cases, the state reported 415 COVID-19 patients in hospitals across the state, the lowest number since April 19. The data is delayed 72 hours to ensure accuracy.

The hospital data in the St. Louis area continued to hold steady over the weekend and into Monday. The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force reported 234 total COVID-19 patients, a slight increase from Sunday, but the moving 7-day average decreased to a new low of 233.

The number of patients on ventilators and in the ICU both increased slightly Monday, but COVID-19 patients are taking up about 5% of ICU beds and less than 4% of ventilators.

The full breakdown of data trends from the task force is below.

  • New hospital admissions: 14, down from 17 Sunday
  • Seven-day moving average of new hospital admissions: 16, up from 14 Sunday
  • Hospitalizations: 234, up from 228 Sunday
  • Seven-day moving average of hospitalizations: 233, down from 235 Sunday
  • Patients in the ICU: 50, up from 41 Sunday
  • Patients on ventilators: 32, up from 27 Sunday
  • Patients discharged yesterday: 11, bringing the total to 2,715

For a full county-by-county breakdown of cases in Missouri, use our interactive map:

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