ST. LOUIS — As the number of hospitalizations in the St. Louis area continued to rise Monday, the leader of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force said safely reopening schools this fall will come down to more than just planning by school districts.
"I will try and drive the emphasis away from the absolute risk reduction at schools," Dr. Alex Garza said when asked about reopening plans. "Because really, we're in this situation because we have increased transmission in the community."
Dr. Garza said one of the most important factors in reopening schools safely will be limiting the spread of the coronavirus in the community over the next few weeks.
"The way to send our kids and our teachers and our support staff back to school safely is to decrease virus in the community," he said. "It can't just all be on the doorstep of the schools."
Dr. Garza said one of the best ways to limit the spread of COVID-19 is to wear a mask. It's been about two weeks since St. Louis and St. Louis County put mask requirements in place. But with other parts of the area not under mask requirements, Dr. Garza said they are still working to figure out ways to quantify the benefit.
"Just from my gross observations in traveling to some of these communities there, my observation is there is a sharp drop off in the communities where [a mask] is not mandated," Dr. Garza said. "So trying to tease those numbers out to see where the benefit is from these mask-wearing policies is going to take a little bit of work. But we'll start trying to slice that data to realize what the impact is for mask-wearing."
RELATED: 'We can turn this around' | St. Louis pandemic task force shows continued upward trend, urges precautions
You can watch the briefing in the player below or on the task force Facebook page.
Here are Monday's Task Force numbers:
- New hospital admissions (data lagged two days) increased – from 35 yesterday to 38 today. *
- The seven-day moving average of hospital admissions (data lagged two days) increased – from 33 yesterday to 34 today. *
- The seven-day moving average of hospitalizations increased from 217 yesterday to 228 today. *
- Inpatient confirmed COVID positive hospitalizations increased - from 238 yesterday to 260 today. *
- Inpatient suspected COVID positive hospitalizations increased – from 132 yesterday to 176 today.
- The number of confirmed COVID positive patients in the ICUs increased – from 55 yesterday to 58 today.
- The number of confirmed COVID positive patients on ventilators increased – from 27 yesterday to 31 today.
- Across the system hospitals, 20 COVID-19 patients were discharged yesterday, bringing the cumulative number of COVID-19 patients discharged to 3,429.
*These numbers have been updated to reflect the true number of daily admissions. There was a delay in reporting some test results leading to the increase in reported hospital admissions. This, in turn, affected the seven-day moving average of admissions.
On Monday, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services reported 530 new cases, significantly less than Sunday, but more than last Monday.
The state also reported 12,833 new tests, lowering the state's positivity rate from 5.92% on Sunday to 5.88% on Monday.
The state also reported three new deaths, bringing the state's total to 1,132.
Statewide hospitalization data in Missouri has not been updated since July 15. A note from the Missouri DHSS said the delay is due to a change in the way hospital data is reported nationwide.