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St. Louis pandemic task force gives final live briefing

The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force held its final live briefing Monday, 14 months after it was formed during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic

ST. LOUIS — Monday marked a moment of reflection, hope and thankfulness for St. Louis area health care and political leaders as the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force held its final COVID-19 media briefing.

“We knew that we needed to act, we needed to act together, we needed to act quickly,” Dr. Alex Garza said, reflecting on the task force’s formation last spring. “And I’m very proud of the fact that the region did act quickly and came together to combat this threat."

But Dr. Garza also wanted to be clear. While the briefings are ending, the pandemic isn’t over.

“I want to be very clear about one thing today, however, and that is the pandemic is not over,” Dr. Alex Garza stressed. “But we’re entering a new phase, one that we can manage more effectively and safely than we were able to when the virus was raging.”

Watch Monday's full task force briefing in the YouTube video below:

Dr. Garza has served as the incident commander of the task force since it formed the first week of April 2020. Since then, the task force has given daily numbers updates, detailing the increases and decreases in COVID-19 trends in St. Louis area hospitals through powerpoint slides posted on Facebook and sent to media outlets. Over that time, Garza has delivered about 160 briefings — at times discussing data trends three times a week — to give St. Louis residents a better understanding of the virus and how to slow the spread.

“We will save lives if we all do our part,” he said during the first briefing on April 6, 2020.

It’s a sentiment that has remained consistent throughout his livestream updates over the last 14 months. On Monday, Dr. Garza emphasized how getting vaccinated is now a huge part of that effort and stressed that the virus hasn’t gone away.

“As we return to that more normal way of life, we still have to be vigilant,” he said, adding that everyone needs to be ready to adjust if conditions change, including whether cases rise because of variants. 

Any kind of surge that could happen this fall likely wouldn’t be as bad due to people being vaccinated, he said.

Credit: KSDK
St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force incident commander Dr. Alex Garza is joined by local leaders and health care officials during what is said to likely be the task force's last media briefing.

Dr. Garza was joined by several other health care leaders and local municipality leaders on stage to look back at the progress made since last March and what needs to be done moving forward.

“We’re in a great spot right now, but we’re not done,” said Dr. Aamina Akhtar, an infectious disease specialist and chief medical officer at Mercy Hospital South.

Dr. Akhtar reminded St. Louisans to think about all the things we weren’t able to do safely early on in the pandemic – like go to baseball games, hug or visit grandparents and travel – to really appreciate how far we’ve come and to stay focused so we don’t have to tighten restrictions again.

“We’re still learning about the virus,” added Dr. Clay Dunagan, who is an infectious disease specialist at BJC HealthCare and WashU. “What we do know is COVID-19 is likely to be with us for a very long time.”

All of the doctors who spoke Monday and several of the local leaders stressed the importance of getting vaccinated.

Dr. Garza said the task force will continue to provide data weekdays from the local hospitals.

The most recent task force data is from Monday, June 14, using figures from the St. Louis area’s four major health systems (BJC HealthCare, Mercy, SSM Health, St. Luke’s Hospital). The full data is below:

  • New hospital admissions (data lagged two days) decreased – from 16 yesterday to 11 today. There were 16 admissions on Saturday.
  • The seven-day moving average of hospital admissions (data lagged two days) decreased – from 18 yesterday to 17 today.
  • The seven-day moving average of hospitalizations increased – from 104 yesterday to 105 today. It was 104 on Saturday.
  • Inpatient confirmed COVID positive hospitalizations increased – from 108 yesterday to 117 today. It was 105 on Saturday.
  • Inpatient suspected COVID positive hospitalizations increased – from 19 yesterday to 29 today. It was 19 on Saturday.
  • The number of confirmed COVID-positive patients in the ICUs remained the same at 36 today. It was 37 on Saturday.
  • The number of confirmed COVID positive patients on ventilators decreased – from 15 yesterday to 14 today. It was 16 on Saturday.
  • The number of COVID deaths remained the same at 1 today. It was zero on Saturday.
  • The seven-day moving average of COVID remained the same at 1 today. It was 2 Saturday.
  • Across the system hospitals, 33 patients have been discharged, bringing the cumulative number of COVID-19 patients discharged to 22,770.
  • On Monday, staffed bed hospital capacity is at 78%, an average across our task force hospitals. The ICUs are at 77% of their total staffed bed capacity.