ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — “The numbers are too startling to ignore,” is how St. Louis County Executive Sam Page started his COVID-19 briefing Monday morning.
The rate of cases is rising quickly in the county, going up 63% over the last two weeks, he said.
“And we’re not expecting a slowdown anytime soon,” he added.
Page asked residents to get vaccinated – if they haven’t already – as the delta variant continues to surge in Missouri. Hospitals are becoming overwhelmed with new cases in the southwest part of the state. Popular tourist areas in Branson and the Lake of the Ozarks are areas of concern, with the state health department issuing a hot spot advisory for three counties around the lake.
St. Louis County is anticipating the trend to make its way to local hospitals as well, Page said.
“The tidal wave is coming towards our unvaccinated population,” he stated. “This variant is spreading quickly, and this variant has the ability to devastate those in its wake.”
County health department numbers show trends in where the virus is spreading. Those in their teens, 20s and 30s, African Americans and residents in north county are the hardest hit populations when it comes to new infections, the county’s data shows.
In addition to urging residents to get vaccinated, Page said more testing is needed. He explained that people might think they just have a flu, cold or summer allergies, when in reality they could have COVID-19 – and might be spreading it to those around them.
“With this in mind, the county health department is issuing a public health advisory today, encouraging all of those who experience cold and flu-like symptoms to get a COVID-19 test,” Page said.
The symptoms associated with the delta variant are slightly different than the symptoms frequently associated with virus, and can present as a headache, runny nose or sore throat.
READ MORE: Symptoms for the delta variant are different from 'classic' COVID-19 symptoms. Here's what you need to know.
St. Louis County is not going as far as recommending new restrictions or a tightening of guidelines as of right now. Page said the county health department is “a little bit away from that”, instead focusing efforts on getting residents vaccinated and asking people to wear masks if in a crowded situation where the vaccination status of everyone isn’t known.
Missouri’s COVID-19 dashboard shows 49.8% of St. Louis County residents have started the vaccination process and 44% have completed it.
The St. Louis County council approved a vaccine incentive program that could use up to $875,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds to buy gift cards, which can then be given out to people who get vaccinated. Page said the county health department will announce program details later this week.