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St. Louis County reports steep increase in COVID cases as tests get harder to find

The seven-day average of new daily COVID cases in St. Louis County is now at 661, according to health data

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — COVID-19 cases are increasing in St. Louis County, officials announced on Monday. In a press conference, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said the Department of Health's data showed a nearly 70% increase in new cases over the most recent seven-day period.

"As we reported before the holiday break, St. Louis County's experienced its biggest surge in COVID-19 cases in more than a year," said St. Louis County Executive Sam Page during a news conference Monday afternoon. "With more than 1,000 new cases reported on Thursday. Not since November of 2020 have we seen such numbers."

Page said the seven-day rolling average of new COVID cases is now at 661 per day.

According to the county's data, the seven-day average positivity rate is at 12%. Under the Centers for Disease Control's threshold, that's considered "high."

"Our very high test positivity rate means that many people are infected, but haven't gotten tested," said Page. "And this is risky for all of us because people who don't know they are infected are likely not isolating themselves, so chances are high that they're in a public setting infecting others."

As omicron continues to spread, Page said right now there have been three cases detected in the county, but he said public health experts tell him there are statically hundreds more. The process to identify specific variants requires more analysis and is done by the state. Page said there's a "significant delay associated" with this analysis.

COVID testing shortages

As cases rise, so does the demand for COVID testing. St. Louis County is no longer accepting walk-ins at testing sites because of a shortage of COVID tests. The county is also limiting testing site hours and you will need an appointment to be seen.

RELATED: No more walk-ins: COVID-19 test shortage affects St. Louis County clinics

To make an appointment at a St. Louis County testing site, click here. There are also free testing sites organized by the state. You can find more information on those clinics here.

St. Louis County health officials also remind people that they can help protect themselves by wearing a face covering, getting the COVID vaccine, social distancing and getting tested. For more information about getting vaccinated, click here.

Detecting COVID in wastewater

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services confirmed the omicron variant has been detected in some of the sewer sheds in the region. Mizzou researchers are also tracking the variant in wastewater and have detected the omicron variant along the I-70 corridor.

On Monday, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said more than half of all the wastewater facilities detected the omicron variant in the most recent sample on Dec. 20. The data is not yet publicly available on the wastewater data website, but a press release from the state health department said the variant was found in seven St. Louis facilities and five St. Charles facilities.

Legal battle over health orders

Page said St. Louis County on Monday joined Jackson County in appealing a Cole County judge's ruling in November that invalidated virus-fighting regulations imposed by state and local health departments. That decision, which sided with Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt, has led to school districts dropping mask mandates and counties lifting health restrictions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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