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New hospitalizations in St. Louis match January levels

On Thursday, hospitals in St. Louis reported admitting 100 new patients with COVID-19 — the most since Jan. 16
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St. Louis, Missouri, USA downtown cityscape on the river at dusk.

ST. LOUIS — New COVID-19 hospital admissions in St. Louis are reaching winter surge levels and southeast Missouri hospitals are under strain due to a surge in coronavirus cases and a rise in deaths.

On Thursday, hospitals in St. Louis reported admitting 100 new patients with COVID-19 — the most since Jan. 16, according to the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force. A total of 585 people were hospitalized, including 25 children, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Twelve of those children are younger than 12 and not yet eligible for the vaccine.

Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized at Southeast Hospital and Saint Francis Medical Center in Cape Girardeau has increased by more than 50% in the last week and a half, according to data released Thursday by both facilities.

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Saint Francis, which reopened its COVID-19 care unit last week, reported 39 coronavirus inpatients as of early Thursday afternoon, up from 25 just 10 days ago. At Southeast Hospital, the number of COVID-19 inpatients increased from 22 about 10 days ago to 32 as of Thursday morning, the Southeast Missourian reported.

Both hospitals are promoting vaccines. Dr. Matt Janzow, vice president and chief medical officer at SoutheastHEALTH, said the vaccines "are safe and effective and offer us a way out of this pandemic and the more contagious variants that will likely continue to develop." 

Statewide, the death toll from the rapidly spreading delta variant continues to rise in Missouri, with July shaping up to be an even deadlier month than earlier reported.

A total of 535 deaths have been recorded over five weeks beginning on June 27, more than double the prior five weeks, when 223 deaths were reported and the delta variant was just starting to take hold in the state. The prior five-week period saw 207 deaths.

Many COVID-19 deaths are reported several weeks after they occur as state officials analyze death certificates, which is why the number from July continues to climb.

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The numbers are not as high as during the deadliest stretch of the pandemic in late November and early December, when 455 Missourians died in one week.

"Whenever there's a big surge in cases, we can expect a big surge in deaths, but it will be several weeks delayed," said Dr. Hilary Babcock, infectious disease expert with BJC HealthCare. "We are seeing a rise in deaths now that is reflecting a rise in cases that started happening in June."

Statewide, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has reached 2,373, approaching the highest levels seen in the pandemic when hospitalizations topped 2,800.

But there are signs the surge in new cases in Missouri could be flattening. The average number of new cases has dropped slightly in the past two weeks, from 3,032 to 2,553 on Thursday.